Turkey probes social media plea for international aid to combat fires




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Istanbul – Turkish prosecutors on Thursday launched an investigation into a social media campaign seeking international support to help combat the wildfires that continued to burn in the south of the country.

The public prosecutor’s office in Ankara is investigating social media accounts on suspicion of “generating fear and panic” and inciting hatred among public, according to state news agency Anadolu.

The accusations also included insulting the state and the president.

In the past, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government had temporarily banned social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube on similar allegations.

Amid growing anger and despair over government’s response to the devastating fires, Twitter and Instagram users issued calls for aid from the international community using the hashtag #HelpTurkey during the past week.

As Turkey battles the worst fires seen in more than a decade, Erdogan again denied the country had failed to introduce adequate preparatory measures, in comments to broadcaster A Haber late on Wednesday.

He accused the opposition of spreading “a terror of lies.”

The opposition accused the government of leaving state-owned firefighter planes idle at an airport in Ankara.

Erdogan said 20 firefighter planes and 51 helicopters had been sent to help contain the blazes. Croatia, Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan had all sent fire-fighting planes.

The wildfires in Turkey have been raging for nearly 10 days, particularly near Antalya and Mugla, popular tourist destinations.

Meanwhile emergency crews have brought a fire under control in Milas, western Turkey, which had reached a coal-fired power plant during the night.

Several neighbourhoods in the region were evacuated during the night, and the navy helped some residents to safety across the sea. (dpa/NAN)