Turkey's Erdogan blames wildfire on children

Death toll has risen to six as blazes continue in south of country

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said one of the wildfires that have been raging for days in the country's southwest was started by children.

He said an investigation into the causes of other fires in the region was underway, and an arrest had been made.

“Although it is known that the fire in Marmaris was caused by children, an investigation into the other fires continues,” Mr Erdogan said.

“In fact, one person has been taken into custody in connection with the fire in Milas.”

Mr Erdogan visited the affected area, meeting residents and inspecting the damage from a helicopter.

The death toll from the wildfires raging in Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean regions rose to six on Saturday, after two forestry workers were confirmed dead by the health ministry.

At least five people died in Manavgat, on the southern Mediterranean coast, and one in Marmaris.

Some 107 of the 112 fires that broke out in the past five days had been contained as of Sunday morning, according to Forestry Ministry data.

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

Support teams from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan have been deployed to help local firefighters.

Meanwhile, panicked tourists rushed to the beach to wait for rescue boats on Saturday, as hotels in the Aegean Sea resort of Bodrum were evacuated because of forest fires.

The coastguard led the operation and authorities asked private boats and yachts to assist in evacuation efforts, as new fires broke out.

Russian news agency Sputnik said more than 100 Russian tourists had been evacuated from Bodrum and relocated to new hotels.

In one video of a Bodrum fire filmed from the sea, a man helping Russians is stunned at the speed of the fire, saying: “This is unbelievable, just unbelievable. How did this fire come here this fast, in five minutes?”

Around 100 fires across southern and western Turkey have burnt down forests and some settlements since Wednesday, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations and forcing people to evacuate.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 400 people affected by the fires in Manavgat were treated at hospitals and released, while 10 others were still in hospital.

In Marmaris, 159 people were taken to hospital, with one person still undergoing treatment for burns, officials said.

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 show.

Nearly 95,000 hectares of land have burned so far this year, compared with an average of 13,516 at this point in the year between 2008 and 2020.

Updated: August 01, 2021, 10:56 AM