Turkey battles wildfires for sixth day

The country has been unable to contain blazes as EU continues to send help

Turkish firefighters are battling to control the flames tearing through forests near Turkey’s beach resorts.

Fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures, the fires that began Wednesday have left eight people dead.

Many villagers have lost their homes and farm animals, and have had trouble breathing amid the heavy smoke.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky News, one resident of Cokertme village described feeling “very tired and helpless”, adding that “our houses are burning, our forests are burning and there is nothing we can do”.

Another said there was no help from the government, “no planes” and “no helicopters”, and that things would be worse if it had not been for the villagers.

Cokertme residents watched as flames surrounded their village on Monday until they had to run from the rapidly approaching fires.

Bushfires raging near Turkey’s holiday destinations of Antalya and Mugla forced residents and tourists to flee by boat as the death toll in the country's south and south-east rose to eight on Sunday with the discovery of two more bodies.

Most of the 100-plus blazes that have erupted in Turkey since Wednesday have been contained, authorities said, but firefighters were still trying to bring about half a dozen fires under control.

More people fled their homes on Sunday as pressure on the government grew over its response.

The EU said it helped mobilise firefighting planes from Croatia and Spain to help Turkey. Planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran have also been fighting the blazes. Spain said it was sending two water-dumping aircraft and one transport plane, as well as 27 soldiers.

The EU announcement followed allegations the Turkish government was compromising firefighting efforts by refusing help from Western nations.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli refuted that, saying the government had only refused offers for planes whose water-dumping capacities were less than five tonnes.

A total of 16 planes, 51 helicopters and more than 5,000 personnel were tackling the fires, he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has also been widely criticised for failing to purchase state-of-the-art firefighting planes.

The interior ministry said authorities were investigating the causes of the fires, including human “carelessness” and possible sabotage by outlawed Kurdish militants. He said one person was detained over allegations he may have been paid by the group to start a fire.

Experts, however, mostly point to climate change as being behind the fires, along with accidents caused by people. Mr Erdogan said one of the blazes was started by children.

A heatwave across southern Europe has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.

Wildfires are common in Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, but this year Turkey has suffered the worst fires in at least a decade, official data shows.

Updated: August 3rd 2021, 8:02 AM
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