Forest fires rage near Turkish resorts, killing four

More than 180 people have been injured in the blazes near popular resorts

Four people were reported dead on Thursday and more than 180 injured as thousands of firefighters battled huge blazes spreading across the Mediterranean resort regions of Turkey's southern coast.

More than 60 forest fires have broken out across 17 provinces on Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts this week, officials have said. The forestry minister said fires raged on in six provinces. Officials have promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting them.

Officials launched an investigation into suspicions that the fires that broke out on Wednesday in four locations to the east of tourist city Antalya were the result of arson.

Turkey's disaster and emergencies office said four people were killed, including an 82-year-old who lived alone.

The NTV channel later said a man, 25, died in Marmaris while trying to help.

The fires began across a sparsely populated region about 75 kilometres east of Antalya, a resort especially popular with Russian and other Eastern European tourists.

But they were creeping closer Thursday to sandy beaches dotted with hotels and resorts.

Images on social media and Turkish TV showed residents jumping out of their cars and running for their lives through smoke-filled streets lit up by orange flames.

Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated due to the fires in Manavgat.

"We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control," Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.

The heavy clouds of smoke turned the sky dark orange over a beachfront hotel complex in the town of Manavgat.

At least 183 people were admitted to hospital.

Mr Pakdemirli said a hotel was being evacuated near the tourist city of Bodrum, about 300km west of Antalya, as new fires broke out across the southern coast.

The fires were raging with temperatures approaching 40°C and wind gusts of 50kph.

But Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek said he suspected foul play because the fires started in four places at once.

"This suggests an arson attack but we do not have clear information about that at this stage," Mr Bocek said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an investigation had been launched.

The Russian embassy said Moscow had sent three giant firefighting aircraft to dump fire retardant on the burning forests to contain the flames.

Fires have broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 burning in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, authorities said. On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Greece's Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, told his Turkish peer that Greece, whose ties with its neighbour are tense, was "ready to help if needed", the Turkish ministry said.

Azerbaijan also offered help.

More than 4,000 Turkish firefighters had been sent across the region to help contain the damage and search for people needing help.

On Thursday they rescued 10 people who were stranded on a boat in a lake that was surrounded by burning forest.

"All of the state's means have been mobilised," Environment Minister Murat Kurum said. "All our teams are in the field."

Updated: July 30th 2021, 11:23 AM
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