The European Union (EU) has announced that it has deployed firefighters to Turkey under the Civil Protection Mechanism to help the country fight “unprecedented forest fires,” as the death toll from the blazes rises to eight.

Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean regions have been plagued with wildfires in recent days that have destroyed hectares of forest and forced the evacuation of citizens and tourists over concerns that the blazes could overwhelm some residential areas.

“The EU stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time. I thank all the countries which have offered help,” the EU’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said on Monday as he announced the support and offered “further assistance” if required.

So far, the EU has deployed one Croatian plane, two Spanish aircraft and firefighting teams from the rescEU team, which is the bloc’s disaster risk management department. Alongside the EU’s assistance, Russia has been providing firefighting planes to help Turkey’s efforts to control the fires, dumping water from the Marmaris coastal area onto burning patches of woodland.

The international support comes after the official death toll rose to eight people, as the Turkish forestry directorate confirmed that a total of 105 fires have broken out in 35 towns and cities since Wednesday. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited some of the affected areas last week, flying over the foreshores in a helicopter before thanking emergency workers for their firefighting efforts, as well as pledging to provide funding to help towns recover from the impact of the blazes.

While Turkey is not yet officially a member of the EU, it has been recognized as a candidate for full membership and signed a Customs Union agreement with the bloc back in 1995. The country’s formal entry into the EU has been stalled by disagreements between the bloc and Turkey’s domestic actions, which European leaders fear do not fit with the values of the current 27 member states.

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