Turkey wildfires: Tourists and villagers flee as resorts ravaged

·3-min read

Tourists and residents were forced to flee as wildfires in Turkey raged near holiday destinations Antalya and Mugla, and in the surrounding countryside, for a fifth day on Sunday.

At least eight people have died in the blazes while villagers lost their homes and animals.

Residents and tourists fled the danger in small boats with suitcases while the coast guard and two navy ships waited out at sea in case a bigger evacuation was needed.

It follows a heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, which led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including on the Italian island of Sicily and in western Greece.

Antalya registered 42 degrees, about five to six degrees C higher than seasonal averages.

Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, helped helicopters and fire trucks in Mugla’s popular district of Bodrum to fight fires.

Turkish television showed fires had reignited after being extinguished earlier, with flame and smoke approaching a village. The minister of forestry and agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, said 117 wildfires were “under control” across Turkey while eight continued.

Turkish farmer Nurten Almaz said she lost everything including her home, her animals and “one century of people’s labour”.

“I feel so much pain, like I lost a child,” she added.

People were warned to keep evacuating Turunc, a town in the seaside resort of Marmaris in Mugla province.

Fires enveloped the area and strong winds made firefighting efforts more difficult. A helicopter attempted to extinguish the blazes, which were unreachable by land.

Aerial firefighting was not possible Sunday night and the fires raged, burning acres of forests.

Social media videos showed tourists in Bodrum scampering down streets rolling their luggage to escape the nearby flames.

Turkey wildfires engulf Marmaris district of Mugla (AFP via Getty Images)
Turkey wildfires engulf Marmaris district of Mugla (AFP via Getty Images)

The health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said at least 27 people affected by the fires were still receiving treatment in hospitals while hundreds of others had been released.

Residents had to flee Cokertme village as flames neared. In one video, firetrucks and cars were rushing to escape fire raging on all sides.

After nightfall, the village looked apocalyptic from a distance, with flames taking over the dark hills.

Bodrum mayor Ahmet Aras said that people experienced “hell” near Cokertme and Mazi as they drove away from the fire.

Tourists evacuated from smoke-engulfed Mazi in Bodrum, Mugla, Turkey (AP)
Tourists evacuated from smoke-engulfed Mazi in Bodrum, Mugla, Turkey (AP)

He said the blaze could not be stopped and hoped to protect residential areas but said it was too late for the trees.

The area was engulfed by Sunday night, Turkish broadcasters said. Reporters said they had to get hurry to safety as the fire intensified with strong winds.

Officials said precautions were being taken to protect two thermic power plants in the vicinity and at present the winds were blowing away from the plants.

Forestry official Mustafa Ozkaya said units continued to fight fires strategically, digging ditches and taking other measures. He said eight planes and 50 helicopters would fly in Mugla on Monday.

The European Commission announced it helped mobilise one firefighting Canadair plane from Croatia and two from Spain to aid Turkey.

Planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran have been helping.

People run away in the fire-devastating Sirtkoy village, near Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey (AP)
People run away in the fire-devastating Sirtkoy village, near Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey (AP)

While Turkish authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as “sabotage” by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to climate change along with accidents caused by people.

Erdogan said one of the fires was started by children.

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