ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — A firefighting plane from Russia crashed Saturday in a mountainous area in southern Turkey, killing the eight crew members and emergency workers aboard, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
The Russian ministry said five Russian and three Turkish citizens were on the amphibious Beriev Be-200, which crashed while trying to land in Turkey’s Adana province. A team to investigate the accident was dispatched to the Kahramanmaras area, Turkish state media said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the families of the Russian crew who died in the crash and asked the defense minister to prepare documents to give them posthumous awards. The crashed plane belonged to the Russian navy.
Putin also sent a telegram of condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the death of the Turkish citizens, saying that “Russians together with Turks are dealing with the natural disaster that happened in your country and we feel unity in grief.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted he was greatly saddened by the deaths and said their “heroic sacrifices” would not be forgotten.
Turkey has fought some 300 wildfires in the last 16 days that have killed eight other people, consumed forests and homes and sent thousands fleeing.
Kahramanmaras governor Omer Faruk Coskun told Anadolu that a wildfire had begun after lightning struck trees.
“We had dispatched a plane to the area but we lost communication with the plane a while ago and it crashed. The situation is very new. We dispatched many units to the area where the plane crashed,” he said.
The Be-200 is a two-engine amphibious aircraft used in Russia and other nations to fight forest fires. It is capable of dropping up to 270 metric tons of water in multiple runs during a single mission.
Wildfires in Turkey’s Mediterranean region began in late July and have incinerated thousands of acres of forests, mostly in the seaside provinces of Mugla and Antalya. The fires came as Turkey and the whole Mediterranean endured a prolonged heat wave.
Climate scientists say there is little doubt climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms.
Northern Turkey has been hit this week by flash floodsthat have killed at least 44 people along its Black Sea coast, turning streets into raging torrents. On the north side of the Black Sea, Russian authorities in the Krasnodar region evacuated 1,500 people due to flooding.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow.
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