Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, force evacuations
Blazes across many provinces this week fanned by strong winds and scorching temperatures.
The death toll from wildfires in Turkey has risen to four as thousands of firefighters battle blazes for a third day in a row after the evacuation of dozens of villages and some hotels.
About 70 wildfires have broken out across 17 provinces on the country’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts this week, according to local officials, fanned by strong winds and scorching temperatures.
Turkey’s government announced that 57 of the fires had been contained or entirely put out by Friday morning.
But Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said fires were still raging in the provinces of Osmaniye, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Adana, Mersin and Kutahya.
Blazes were also still burning in the Mediterranean resort region of Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla, he added.
“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” Pakdemirli said.
Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in areas popular with tourists and television footage has shown people fleeing across fields as they watched fires close in on their homes.
Pakdemirli said three planes, nine drones, 38 helicopters, 680 firefighting vehicles and 4,000 personnel were involved in the ongoing firefighting efforts.
Russia has sent three giant aircraft while neighbouring Greece, also battling wildfires, said it was “ready to help”.
Turkish officials have promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting the fires.
‘A rain of ash’
In Manavgat, a Mediterranean coast city that sits 75km (45 miles) east of Antalya, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people.
Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated due to the fires in the area. A hospital was also evacuated.
Local resident Gulen Dede Tekin, who arrived at a hotel in Manavgat on Thursday morning along with his family, described the unfolding scenes to the AFP news agency.
“In the evening, we realised how serious things were when they cut off the electricity and the ventilation at the hotel,” he said. “This morning, we woke up to a rain of ash.”
Some areas in Adana and Mersin were also evacuated after the fires began to spread around Manavgat on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, one person was found dead on Thursday in Mugla’s Marmaris area, 290km (180 miles) west of Manavgat.
The blaze was continuing in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, Pakdemirli said. Buildings in the area, including a hotel, were evacuated.
Two separate fires broke out near residential areas in the Aegean summer hotspots of Bodrum in Mugla and Didim in Aydin province.
Wildfires have also broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 burning in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, local authorities said.
On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of the capital, Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.
Greek authorities warned the public against unnecessary movement on Friday and said there was a high risk of wildfires during a “dangerous” heatwave that is expected to peak next week.
Fires also burned large swaths of pine forest in the mountainous north of Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.