Turkish firefighters battle blazes for fifth straight day in holiday destinations; toll rises to eight

·3 min read

Istanbul: Wildfires in the Turkish holiday beach destinations of Antalya and Mugla raged on Sunday as firefighters worked to battle the blazes for a fifth day. As some residents boarded boats to flee the danger, coast guard ships waited in the sea in case a bigger evacuation was needed.

Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, assisted helicopters and fire trucks in a village of Mugla's popular district of Bodrum to fight fires. Turkish television showed fires had reignited after being extinguished earlier, with blazes and smoke approaching a village.

Civilians were trying to help, hoping to protect homes and olive groves, but some houses were already damaged. Coast guard and private boats were helping some residents evacuate by sea.

Fires in Marmaris, another tourist destination in Mugla, continued Sunday as strong winds made firefighting efforts more difficult. Residents of villages around Marmaris pleaded for more help on social media. Tourists and some residents were boarding boats with their suitcases as others waited anxiously to see if the fire would come down to the shore.

Fires were also encroaching on a village near the town of Manavgat, where helicopters were trying to extinguish blazes.

The minister of forestry and agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, tweeted that 107 wildfires were "under control" across Turkey. His list showed that, since Wednesday, wildfires had ignited in 32 provinces. The wildfire death toll rose to eight on Sunday.

Panic-stricken tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore. Russian media reported that 100 Russian tourists were among those evacuated.

While Turkish authorities say they are investigating whether the fires may have started as "sabotage" by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis, as seen by the drastic increases in temperatures along with accidents caused by people. Turkey's president said Saturday that one of the fires was started by children.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured some of the affected areas on Saturday and promised to help residents rebuild their homes. But social media users criticized him for arriving in Marmaris in a massive convoy that affected traffic and throwing bags of tea from the top of his bus to people gathered to hear him speak.

A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including on the Italian island of Sicily and in western Greece, where some residents had to be evacuated by boat to escape the flames.

Temperatures in Turkey and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns. Antalya was already registering 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in Turkey's eastern Van province, floods destroyed at least six houses after a small river overflowed amid heavy rains. Floods in northern Turkey last month killed at least six people.

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