Residents count cost of Turkey's devastating wildfires

At least six people have died in blazes that swept through the country's southern and western regions

Days after a raging wildfire in southern Turkey drove his family from the home they had lived in for four decades, Mehmet Demir returned on Saturday to discover a burnt-out building, charred belongings and ashes.

Bedsprings, a ladder, metal chairs and some kitchenware were the only things left identifiable after some of the worst fires in years tore through the region, with several still burning four days after they erupted on Wednesday.

Mr Demir's home, near the Mediterranean coastal town of Manavgat, not far from tourist resort Antalya, was hit by one of almost 100 fires that erupted this week across southern and western Turkey, where sweltering heat and strong winds fanned the flames.

“The blaze spread through the highlands and raged suddenly,” Mr Demir said as he looked around the wreckage of his home, built in 1982. “We had to flee to the centre of Manavgat. Then we came back to find the house like this.”

“This was our [only] saving for the past 39-40 years. We are now left with the clothes we are wearing, me and my wife.

“There is nothing to do. This is when words fail.”

The death toll from the fires rose to six on Saturday, as two firefighters died during efforts to control the fire in Manavgat, broadcaster CNN Turk said.

Satellite imagery showed smoke from fires in Antalya and Mersin provinces was extending to the island of Cyprus, about 150 kilometres away.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area Saturday, viewing the scene from a helicopter.

Wildfires are common in southern Turkey in the hot summer months but local authorities say the latest fires have covered a much bigger area.

With deadly heatwaves, flooding and wildfires occurring around the world, calls are growing for urgent action to cut the CO2 emissions heating the planet.

Turkey's Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said a total of 98 fires had broken out in the past four days, of which 88 were under control.

Fires continued in the southern coastal provinces of Adana, Osmaniye, Antalya, Mersin and the western coastal province of Mugla, a popular resort region for Turks and foreign tourists, where some hotels have been evacuated this week.

Weather forecasts point to heatwaves along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions, with temperatures expected to rise by between 4ºC and 8ºC over their seasonal average, Turkish meteorological authorities say.

They are forecast to reach between 43ºC and 47ºC in the coming days in Antalya.

“The weather is extremely hot and dry. This contributes to start of fires. Our smallest mistake leads to a great disaster,” Turkish climate scientist Levent Kurnaz said on Twitter.

Updated: August 1st 2021, 8:26 AM
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