Turkey fires: coastal residents flee by boat as death toll rises to 8

Bushfires raging across south and south-east threaten towns and villages in popular tourist spots

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

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

Turkey fires map

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 27 people affected by the fires were still receiving treatment in hospital while hundreds of others had been released. The fires had already claimed the lives of five people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris in recent days.

The fires forced the evacuation of the village of Mazikoy in Mugla province. Nurten Almaz, a farmer, said she lost everything.

“I feel so much pain, like I lost a child,” she told the Associated Press. Ms Almaz, 63, said she lost her animals and her home as well as “one century of people’s labour”.

I feel so much pain, like I lost a child
Nurten Almaz, farmer in Mugla province

The fire in Mazikoy was reignited in strong winds on Monday, several hours after fire crews had made gains in containing the blaze, the broadcaster Haberturk reported.

Residents also had to flee nearby Cokertme village as flames neared on Sunday. Some boarded boats and others left by car as the fire approached. In one video, fire engines and cars are seen rushing to escape, with fire raging on all sides.

Bodrum mayor Ahmet Aras said on Sunday evening that people in Cokertme and Mazi experienced “hell” as they fled from the fire. He said the blaze could not be stopped and hoped to protect residential areas but said it was too late for the trees.

The area was engulfed by Sunday night, raising concerns about two power plants nearby.

Authorities told tourists and residents to keep evacuating Turunc, a town in the seaside resort of Marmaris in Mugla province. Fires enveloped the area and strong winds made firefighting efforts more difficult. A helicopter attempted to extinguish the blazes, which were unreachable by land.

As residents of villages around Marmaris pleaded for more help on social media, people boarded small boats carrying suitcases. Others waited anxiously to see if the fire would come down to the shore.

Since Wednesday, thousands of people have been moved from their homes. Locals as well as support teams from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan were sent to help firefighters. The European Commission said it helped mobilise a firefighting Canadair plane from Croatia and two from Spain to aid Turkey.

The Turkish government pledged to rebuild damaged homes and compensate for losses in areas affected by the fires.

A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including on the Italian island of Sicily and in western Greece, where some residents had to be moved by boat to escape the flames.

Temperatures in Turkey and nearby countries in south-east Europe are expected to climb to 42ºC on Monday in many cities and towns. Antalya registered 41ºC on Sunday, about 5ºC above normal.

Updated: August 2nd 2021, 1:51 PM