At least 4 have been killed and dozens hospitalized in multiple wildfires ravaging Turkey’s Mediterranean provinces.
With efforts ongoing to bring the wildfires that started on July 28 under control, two districts of the southern province of Antalya were badly engulfed in wildfires in particular.
The forest fires started in four different locations at the same time in Manavgat district on July 28, and late in the day, another fire broke out in Antalya’s Akseki district.
“The fire in Manavgat is under control [after 21 hours of rescue efforts], but there is an ongoing fire in Akseki,” Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told reporters in Antalya early July 29.
An 82-year-old man was found dead during the evacuation of the Kepezbeleni district, some 16 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Manavgat, while 10 people were found stranded at the nearby Oymapınar dam, Pakdemirli said, adding that rescue teams were dispatched to the site and those people were rescued.
Authorities evacuated 18 villages and districts in Antalya, the minister noted.
Volkar Hülür, the district governor of Akseki, said, “Unfortunately, 80 percent of the houses in the Kepezbeleni neighborhood burned down.”
Turkish media reported 62 people, mainly locals who experienced smoke and suffered burns, were hospitalized in Antalya.
Thick plumes of black smoke rose and spread 75 kilometers (45 miles) east of the province.
Footage on social media and Turkish TV showed rescuers dropping fire retardants from helicopters on burning buildings and fields in and around Manavgat.
Hundreds of forestry workers aided by helicopters and a plane tried to bring the fire under control.
In one part of the district, 20 buildings housing around 500 people burned down, according to National broadcaster NTV television.
Security forces helped move residents of four neighborhoods out of the fire’s path, as firefighters struggled to control the blaze, Manavgat district governor Mustafa Yiğit told the state-run Anadolu Agency.
He denied earlier media reports that patients at a hospital in Manavgat were being transferred to another location but said hospitals in the area were placed on alert.
Tourist resorts in the region weren’t affected, Yiğit added.
“It’s an unbelievably bad sight,” Manavgat Mayor Şükrü Sözen told CNN Turk.
“The fire spread to the town center. It’s growing even more with the wind. It’s impossible for us to determine the size of the damage. There is damage in the villages too. We have not seen anything like this,” Sözen told broadcaster Haberturk.
Early July 29, Pakdemirli said the number of the fires that the firefighters were fighting to take control of was around 10.
He expressed that the efforts to bring 10 fires under control were “continuing with a total of 1,832 personnel, three planes, 29 helicopters, and 458 water tenders.”
“I am a local manager for 27 years, but I have never seen such a fire,” Antalya Mayor Muhittin Böcek said on July 29.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fires.
Pakdemirli confirmed that fires had started in four locations but said it was premature to say what had caused the blaze. “This suggests an arson attack,” Böcek noted.
Antalya is known for its scorching summer heat. Böcek said the extreme heat and strong winds were fanning the fire as it swept through the pine forest.
Winds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour) were fanning the flames, he added.
“All necessary support will be given to our citizens who have suffered from the fire,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, adding that an investigation was launched into the cause.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, although some forest fires have been blamed on arson.
The coastal region around Antalya is a popular summer resort destination for European tourists, especially those from Russia and parts of eastern Europe.
Highway between Mersin, Antalya closed due to fires
While the Mediterranean province of Antalya battles against a devasting forest fire, firefighters in Turkey’s south are fighting against wildfires in three other Mediterranean provinces.
In Antalya’s neighboring province Mersin, three wildfires broke out in three of its districts, Silifke, Aydıncık and Bozyazı.
Two neighborhoods in Bozyazı have been evacuated. Due to the fires in Silifke, the highway between Antalya and Mersin was closed.
In the Osmaniye province, to the east of Mersin, fires in Dereobası has been extinguished, but the forest fires in the Kadirli district are ongoing. In the southern province of Adana, after fires that started late July 28, seven villages have been evacuated.
Hurriyet Daily News