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Forest fire shuts Turkey's Dardanelles Strait for maritime traffic

ANKARA (Reuters) -Maritime traffic from the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara has been suspended due to the ongoing forest fire in the Turkish northwestern province of Canakkale, the transport ministry and a shipping agency said on Tuesday.

"The traffic at Dardanelles was suspended for both directions on Tuesday at 18:45 (1545 GMT) hours due to the aircraft intervening in the forest fire in the region by safely taking water from the sea," Tribeca shipping agency said.

The Dardanelles Strait, a narrow and historically significant passage connecting the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea, serves as a vital shipping route for vessels travelling between Europe and Asia.

According to Tribeca, 15 northbound and 19 southbound vessels were stranded on either side of the waterway. It said one of the northbound vessels and five of the southbound vessels are substantial in size, measuring over 200 meters (656 feet) in length.

The larger vessels will await passage until Wednesday morning, allowing them to navigate the strait in daylight. Smaller vessels were initially scheduled for passage on Tuesday, the agency said.

"Tugboats are prepared to intervene if the fire approaches the seafront, providing additional support to the ongoing firefighting operations," the Transport Ministry said in a statement.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Ibrahim Yumakli said the forest fire had prompted evacuation of six villages in its path.

(Reporting by Ece ToksabayEditing by Bill Berkrot)