This is still an unfolding story and the information in this article is correct as of Sunday, August 1, 2021. We will continue to update our readers as the situation develops.
Firefighters were battling blazes for a fifth day on Turkey’s southern coast on Sunday, where dozens of villages and some hotels were evacuated.
The wildfires were deadliest in Antalya, where five people, including two firefighters, were killed after they were stranded in the midst of fast-spreading flames. The sixth victim was a young man trying to aid firefighters in Marmaris, who died when his motorcycle crashed in a fire-hit area and he was caught in the middle of a forest fire. The blazes left a large number of people homeless, especially in Manavgat.
The country has declared the place “a disaster area” and pledged aid and new residences for locals affected by the fires. Most were villagers, who, along with their homes, lost livestock, their main source of income. A total of 42 rural neighbourhoods were affected by the fires, with forced evacuation occurring in 27 neighbourhoods. Some 279 people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns in Manavgat.
In Kalemler, one of the villages most affected by the Manavgat fire, bulldozers started demolishing houses that were completely burned or heavily damaged by the fire on Sunday. Locals were taken to a safe location in the district where aid delivery spots were established.
President Erdoğan said on Saturday that $5.91 million (TL 50 million) has been allocated to meet the urgent needs in areas that have experienced destruction and property damage. He said Turkey was mobilizing all means to bring the blazes under control.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli shared figures on his Twitter account, saying a total of 112 fires have erupted since July 28 and 107 of them have been contained.
The efforts to contain the remaining five fires continued in the Manavgat and Gündoğmuş districts of Antalya, along with Marmaris, Köyceğiz, and Milas districts of Muğla.
An aerial fleet containing 12 helicopters and three planes, ground forces – including a group of 100 Azerbaijanis sent to Turkey to assist the ongoing efforts – along with locals, were fighting the fires.
At a press conference in Muğla on Saturday, Minister Pakdemirli had warned that caution will be needed to combat the massive fires on Sunday when humidity is expected to drop 10%.
A total of 13 aircraft, nine drones, 45 helicopters, one unmanned helicopter, 708 water tankers and water sprinklers, 120 construction machines have been used in the efforts, said Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, adding that some 4,800 personnel are active in the region.
Fire breaks out in Antalya’s Manavgat district
The first fires broke out at around 12.00 on Wednesday, July 28 in the forest areas of Kavaklı, Sarılar, Kalemler and Yeniköy in Antalya’s Manavgat district, quickly spreading due to strong wind and leaving a trail of destruction in its path.
Hundreds of residents from the four neighbourhoods in the town were evacuated as the fire was fanned by strong winds, causing it to spread rapidly.
By Thursday, forest fires had broken out in Akseki, Mersin, Osmaniye and Adana, Marmaris, Bodrum, Köyceğiz, Didim, Milas, Karamanmaraş, Kayseri, and Kocaeli.
Homes and hotels in Bodrum and Marmaris were evacuated, some by Turkish Coastguard vessels – assisted by private boats and yachts – deployed to bring holidaymakers to safety by sea as new wildfires erupted.
Hundreds of fire and forestry workers, aided by helicopters and a plane, tried to bring the fires under control. Local people join forces with the teams to put out the fires.
Fire in Ovacık, Fethiye
At around 00:30 on July 30, a fire broke out at three different points in the forest in the Ovacık area of Fethiye. The roads providing access to Ölüdeniz and historical Kayaköy were closed to traffic as a precaution.
Hundreds of locals turned out to support the fire teams and the fire was brought under control in four hours.
Approximately five hectares of red pine forest was damaged in the fire. Investigations into the cause of the fire continue.
Support from neighbouring countries
Offers of practical support have come from neighbouring countries, including:
Azerbaijan: The Emergency Situations Ministry of Azerbaijan sent 53 fire trucks meant to fight large fires, as well as 220 personnel by land on Saturday. Earlier, 100 Azerbaijani firefighters arrived by air in the Turkish province of Muğla.
Iran: According to news reports, Iran is sending firefighting aid, including aerial vehicles, to Turkey to help control ongoing fires across the country, the Iranian ambassador to Turkey said on Saturday.
Turkey’s defence ministry on Saturday tweeted photos of an Iranian firefighting plane sent to the neighbouring country, saying that efforts to extinguish the fires in Marmaris continue.
Russia has sent five IL-76 aircraft and three Mi-18 helicopters to help Turkey in the fight to extinguish the fires. Russia, which is itself facing strong wildfires, has managed to stabilise the situation across the country and, therefore, can give a hand to Turkey suffering from the same natural dsaster.
Some 4,800 firefighters and forestry workers have, so far, been battling the fire for five days and nights, on land and from the air. Can you even begin to imagine how exhausted they must be with the hot summer temperatures as well as the heat from the fire?
Firefighters are true heroes. When there is a fire our natural instinct is to run in the opposite direction – away from the danger. Firefighters run towards the danger and are usually first on the scene.
Their courage knows no limits. They know the danger involved and that there is a possibility things may not go so well for them, but they do it anyway.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months and this year has been particularly dry with rainfall levels in Muğla, which is the province with the second-highest rainfall in Turkey, decreasing by 80 per cent in the last three months of this year compared to last year.
During drought conditions, fuels for wildfire, such as grasses and trees, can dry out and become more flammable. Drought can also increase the probability of ignition and the rate at which fire spreads
The fires are being treated as suspicious due to having started in more than one location at once.
President Erdoğan said an investigation had already been launched.
Minister Pakdemirli also emphasized that official investigations into the causes of the fires continue.
“Judicial and law enforcement authorities continue their investigation into the causes of the fires. A statement will be made once important findings are uncovered,” he said.
Citing widespread speculation on social media, Pakdemirli also urged the public against relying on uncorroborated information from nonofficial sources.
Sources: NTV/Daily Mail/Anadolu Ajansi/Daily Sabah/Islam Times/Ani News