Four dead as forest fires sweep Turkey and force evacuations | Environment News

Turkey’s wildfire death toll has risen to four as thousands of firefighters fight the blazes for the third day in a row after dozens of villages and some hotels were evacuated.

About 70 forest fires broke out in 17 provinces on the country’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts this week, according to local officials, fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures.

The Turkish government announced that 57 of the fires had been brought under control or fully extinguished by Friday morning.

But Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said the fires were still raging in the provinces of Osmaniye, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Adana, Mersin and Kutahya.

Fires were also still burning in the Mediterranean resort area of ​​Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla, he added.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires this morning, but even though we cautiously say they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” Pakdemirli said.

Villages and some hotels were evacuated to areas popular with tourists and television footage showed people fleeing across fields as they watched fires approach their homes.

Thousands of buildings were burnt to the ground [Kaan Soyturk/Reuters]

Pakdemirli said three planes, nine drones, 38 helicopters, 680 firefighting vehicles and 4,000 people were involved in the ongoing firefighting efforts.

Russia has sent three giant planes while neighboring Greece, also battling wildfires, has declared itself “ready to help”.

Turkish authorities have pledged to bring to justice anyone found responsible for starting the fires.

‘A rain of ashes’

In Manavgat, a Mediterranean coastal town 75 km (45 miles) east of Antalya, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters battled a blaze that killed three people.

Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighborhoods had been evacuated due to the fires in the area. A hospital was also evacuated.

A resident of the neighborhood, Gulen Dede Tekin, arrived Thursday morning at a hotel in Manavgat with his family, described the scenes to the AFP news agency.

“In the evening, we realized how bad things were when they cut off the electricity and the ventilation of the hotel,” he said. “This morning, we woke up to a shower of ash. “

Parts of Adana and Mersin were also evacuated after the fires started to spread around Manavgat on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, one person was found dead Thursday in the Marmaris area of ​​Mugla, 290 km (180 miles) west of Manavgat.

Planes, drones, helicopters, vehicles and thousands of people are involved in ongoing firefighting efforts [Kenan Gurbuz/Reuters]

The blaze continued in Marmaris but residential areas were not in danger, Pakdemirli said. The buildings in the area, including a hotel, were evacuated.

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

Forest fires have also broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 fires in Greece in the past 24 hours, fueled by winds and soaring temperatures, local authorities said.

On Tuesday, a fire ravaged a pine forest north of the capital, Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Greek authorities warned the public of unnecessary moves on Friday and said there was a high risk of wildfires in a “dangerous” heat wave expected to peak next week.

Fires have also burned large swathes of pine forests in mountainous north Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.

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