Plumes of black smoke rise from the forest around Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey, July 28, 2021. REUTERS
The death toll in wildfires raging in southern Turkey rose to four as fire crews on Friday battled blazes that burned down homes and forced people to evacuate villages and beach resorts.
Firefighters were still tackling wildfires in 14 locations in six provinces in Turkey’s Mediterranean and southern Aegean region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters. A total of 57 other wildfires that broke out amid strong winds and scorching heat have been brought under control since Wednesday, he said.
The worst fires were in the Manavgat and Akseki regions in Antalya province, where strong winds pushed the fire toward settlements on Wednesday. An 82-year-old man and a married couple died, more than 50 people were hospitalized and dozens of homes were incinerated. More than 25 neighborhoods or villages were evacuated.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old volunteer died in another fire near the Turkish resort of Marmaris, 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Antalya late Thursday, raising the death toll in the fires to four. The state-run Anadolu Agency said the man was taking drinking water to firefighters but got in a motorcycle crash and perished in the fire.
The mountainside fire in Marmaris briefly threatened holiday homes and hotels on Thursday while guests at a luxury hotel in the Aegean beach resort of Guvercinlik, near the town of Bodrum, were evacuated in boats, reports said.
Azerbaijan announced it would send 500 emergency workers, helicopters and other equipment to help Turkey, a close ally, battle the blazes. Erdogan said Azerbaijan would also provide an amphibious firefighting aircraft, in addition to firefighting planes sent from Russia and Ukraine. Neighboring Greece also offered help.
In Greece, authorities on Friday ordered additional fire patrols and infrastructure inspections as the country grappled with a heat wave fed by hot air from Africa that is expected to last more than a week. Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns and ease only later next week.
Turkish authorities launched investigations into the fires on Thursday. The mayor for Marmaris said he couldn’t rule out “sabotage” as a cause for the fire there. Erdogan said Friday that the Interior Ministry and intelligence services were “engaged in an intense effort” to shed light on the wildfires.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, though some previous forest fires have been blamed on arson or outlawed Kurdish militants.
In other Turkish provinces, authorities declared a ban on people entering forests in a bid to prevent more fires.