- Nearly 60 forest fires have broken out this week on Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts
- 31 fires contained, with firefighters fighting the 17 others
- Images show people on the run, buildings set on fire
- The Presidency has pledged to take action against these “attacks”
- Two hotels in Marmaris and Bodrum among the evacuated buildings
MANAVGAT, Turkey, July 29 (Reuters) – Three people died Thursday in a wildfire in southern Turkey, where authorities were battling multiple fires for a second day over suspicion of arson, said the AFAD disaster control agency and the Minister of Agriculture.
Dozens of villages as well as some hotels were evacuated, and TV footage showed buildings set on fire and people fleeing across fields as firefighters on the ground and in helicopters attempted to contain a blaze in Manavgat, 75 km away (45 km miles) east of the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya.
Officials said more than 60 forest fires broke out in 17 provinces on Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts this week, with the presidency pledging to hold those responsible for the “attacks” to account.
Of these forest fires, 36 have been brought under control, but firefighting efforts for the remaining 17 are continuing, with more than 140 people requiring care or suffering property damage, according to AFAD.
Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said that an 82-year-old man was found dead during the evacuation of Kepezbeleni, 16 kilometers northeast of Manavgat, and two people were found dead in Degirmenli, in 20 kilometers east of Manavgat.
He said 18 villages and districts were evacuated in Antalya, along with 16 more in neighboring Adana and Mersin provinces, as the fires spread around Manavgat on Wednesday, fanned by high winds in hot weather. Authorities also evacuated a Manavgat hospital. Read more
Buildings, including a hotel in the Aegean resort of Marmaris, have been evacuated due to the blaze, state broadcaster TRT Haber said. Images showed two separate fires near residential areas in the Aegean summer hot spots of Bodrum, where another hotel was evacuated, and Didim.
Pakdemirli said 35 planes, 457 vehicles and 4,000 people were involved in the firefighting efforts, as separate forest fires raged in Osmaniye, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Adana, Mersin and Kutahya provinces.
“Our struggle to contain (the fires) continues, and we will surely contain them. But it may take some time,” he said.
The timing of the various wildfires has raised concerns about the arson attacks, with presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun saying investigations have been launched to determine the cause of the fires.
“Those responsible will be held accountable for the attacks they have launched against our nature and our forests as soon as possible,” Altun said on Twitter.
Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast is known for its scorching summer heat, which often causes forest fires. Authorities said the latest fires were the largest to date.
Turkey has battled a series of disasters caused by extreme weather conditions this summer, including flash floods last week that killed six people in the Black Sea region.
Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans, Catherine Evans, Timothy Heritage and Raissa Kasolowsky
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