At least 11 killed in southeast Turkey wildfires

Blaze on farmland was spread by winds to nearby villages, and is one of several to hit the country this week.

A fire near Kumkoy in the Gelibolu Peninsula, Turkey
A fire burning in the province of Canakkale, Turkey, on June 18, 2024 [Sercan Ozkurnazli/Dia images via Getty Images]

At least 11 people have been killed and dozens hurt as wildfires swept through several villages in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, ministers said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported the deaths from the overnight blaze between the cities of Diyarbakir and Mardin on Friday. Seventy-eight people were injured, he said on X, with at least five people in intensive care units.

The fire started with the burning of crop stubble. Fanned by winds, it moved quickly through the villages of Koksalan, Yazcicegi and Bagacik.

Images posted on social media showed a huge blaze lighting up the night sky with vast clouds of smoke billowing into the air.

Four emergency teams and 35 ambulances were sent to the scene. By Friday, firefighters had managed to bring the blaze under control, according to Diyarbakir Governor Ali Ihsan Su.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) criticised the government’s intervention as “late and insufficient”. During the night, it had urged the authorities to send water bombers, saying fighting the blaze from the ground was “not enough”.

The public prosecutor’s office had opened an investigation into the cause of the fire, according to Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said the fire started late on Thursday in an area 30km (18 miles) south of Diyarbakir and quickly spread due to strong winds, affecting five villages.

Meanwhile, across the country in northwestern Turkey, firefighters were battling to contain a wildfire near the town of Ayvacik in Canakkale province, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

No one was hurt but authorities evacuated the small village of Camkoy as a precaution, the agency reported.

It was one of several wildfires to have erupted in the province of Canakkale in the past week amid high winds and scorching summer temperatures.

Turkey has experienced 74 wildfires so far this year, which have ravaged 12,910 hectares (31,900 acres) of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

A fire near Kumkoy in the Gelibolu Peninsula, Turkey
The cause of the fire on agricultural land in Canakkale, Turkey, on June 18, 2024, was unknown [Sercan Ozkurnazli/Dia images via Getty Images]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies