Tourists rescued from burning Med resorts by flotilla of boats

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Holidaymakers have been evacuated from beaches by rescue boats in Turkey after wildfires threatened hotels in the Aegean resort of Bodrum.

Coastguard vessels were joined by private boats and yachts to bring the tourists to safety, according to Turkish media on Saturday. Videos posted online showed people wheeling their suitcases along the road while smoke from forest fires billowed into the sky.

Six people have died and more than 500 needed hospital treatment in Turkey’s Mediterranean towns from fires that have raged across the country since Wednesday, burning down forests and some settlements, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations.

A severe heatwave has swept across much of south-eastern Europe, with temperatures rising above 40C in some places.

Wildfires have also broken out in Greece and Italy. Four villages were evacuated in the mountains around Patras in western Greece, while in Sicily 150 people were taken to safety from the seaside around Catania.

A helicopter responds to the forest fire that broke out in Marmaris district in Mugla, Turkey.
A helicopter responds to the forest fire that broke out in the Marmaris district in Mugla, Turkey. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In Turkey, more than 100 Russian tourists had been evacuated from Bodrum and relocated to new hotels, according to the Russian news agency Sputnik. In one video of the Bodrum fire filmed from the sea, a man helping with the evacuations was stunned at the speed of the fire, saying: “This is unbelievable, just unbelievable. How did this fire come this fast in five minutes?”

Bekir Pakdemirli, the agriculture and forestry minister, said 91 of the 101 fires that broke out amid strong winds and scorching heat have been brought under control. Neighbourhoods affected by the fire in five provinces were declared disaster zones.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited some affected areas on Saturday, inspecting the damage from a helicopter. He said the number of planes fighting the fires had been increased from six to 13, including aircraft from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and that thousands of Turkish personnel as well as dozens of helicopters and drones were assisting.

In a speech from Marmaris on Saturday night, Erdogan said one of the fires there had been started by children.

At least five people have died from the fires in Manavgat and one died in Marmaris. Both towns are Mediterranean tourist destinations.

Wildfires at Le Capannine beach in Catania, Sicily, on 30 July.
Wildfires at Le Capannine beach in Catania, Sicily, on 30 July. Photograph: Roberto Viglianisi/Reuters

In Greece the Civil Protection Agency urged people in four villages near Patras to leave by sending emergency text messages, but local media reports said some villagers had stayed and were trying to fight the fires with garden hoses.

The wildfires also affected the Sicilian provinces of Palermo, Syracuse and Messina.

Italy’s civil protection authorities said they have received 558 requests from regions to help in fighting brush and forest fires this season, one-third in the past week alone. That makes it the fourth most severe fire season since 2007.

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