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Turkey wildfires: Death toll rises as blazes rage on

July 30, 2021

Firefighters are tackling blazes for a third day in Turkey's Mediterranean and southern Aegean region. It's not known how the devastating fires started, but one official says he can't rule out "sabotage."

A wildfire blazes in Turkey, some boats are in the water
Wildfires have blazed along Turkey's southern Aegean coast for daysImage: ANKA

The death toll from wildfires raging on Turkey's southern coast rose to four on Friday, as dozens of villages and some hotels were evacuated.

Firefighters were still tackling wildfires in 20 locations in six provinces in Turkey's Mediterranean and southern Aegean region, said Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli.

More than 60 wildfires have broken out across 17 provinces on Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts this week, but most have since been extinguished.

"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," said Pakdemirli.

Which regions have been affected by wildfires?

Firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people in Manavgat, 75 kilometers (45 miles) east of the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

In Manavgat, a total of 27 neighborhoods and a hospital were evacuated due to the fires, said Urbanization and Environment Minister Murat Kurum.

DW spoke to farmers in the hard-hit Manavgat region. Mehmet Uysal explained: "Some of the animals burned where they were. Some we released but they burned in the forest. We had around 40 sheep and goats, but we lost all of them."

"The fire came all of a sudden. It turned everything into ashes. We barely saved our lives. The children went one way. We went the other. Everyone tried to escape. It's devastating, absolutely devastating," Melike Uysal told DW.

DW correspondent Julia Hahn tweeted that the scenes from the region were "apocalyptic."

A further 15 neighborhoods and 2,300 structures were also affected.

Fires began to spread around Manavgat fanned by strong winds in hot weather, causing the evacuation of the southern city of Adana and the coastal city Mersin.

One person was also found dead on Thursday in Mugla's Marmaris area, 290 kilometers west of Manavgat. The blaze was continuing in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, the government said.

A woman stands next to a blaze that is burning some debris and has turned the whole picture orange
A number of residents were forced to evacuate their homesImage: Kaan Soyturk/REUTERS

Two separate fires broke out near residential areas in the Aegean summer hot spots of Bodrum in Mugla, and Didim in Aydin province.

Forestry Minister Pakdemirli said three planes, nine drones, 38 helicopters, 680 firefighting vehicles and 4,000 personnel were involved in firefighting efforts.

Separate wildfires raged in the provinces of Osmaniye, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Adana, Mersin and Kutahya.

Infografik Map Turkey wildfire EN

How did the wildfires start?

Wildfires are common in Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months. But some previous forest fires have been blamed on arson or outlawed Kurdish militants.

Authorities on Thursday launched investigations into the fires. Fahrettin Altun, a top aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said "those responsible will have to account for the attacks against nature and forests." The mayor for Marmaris said he couldn't rule out "sabotage" as a cause for the fire there.

A firefighter cools a burnt house as a massive forest fire spread to the town of Manavgat
Manavgat is one of the towns most affected by the wildfiresImage: Kaan Soyturk/REUTERS

kmm/sri (Reuters, AP)