10th day of forest fires in Turkey with hopes of recovery

Major wildfires that started in the last week of July made it into August and hopes are high for an end to 10 days of inferno raging mostly across the southern regions of Turkey.

Authorities announced that 196 out of 208 fires in several provinces were brought under control as of late Thursday. Firefighters, aided by water bomber planes, helicopters and drones keep fighting flames engulfing Antalya, Muğla, Adana, Aydın, Isparta and Denizli.

Strong winds and scorching heat prolonged fires mostly raging in and near popular vacation destinations, including Marmaris in Muğla and Manavgat in Antalya. Flames advanced toward residential areas for days, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of people. In rural neighborhoods of Antalya, dozens of houses were devastated by the fires, leaving a large number of people homeless. Fires in Antalya and Muğla left at least eight people dead.

"We managed to prevent the blazes from advancing further despite strong winds today," said Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at a press conference in Antalya on Thursday. "We aim to bring them totally under control tomorrow." Çavuşoğlu, a native of Antalya, has been in the region along with a delegation of ministers since the first days of the blazes.

Regarding the forest fires in Manavgat, one of the hardest-hit regions, Çavuşoğlu said the fire response by air and land stopped the flames from spreading further. Over 6,500 people and more than 1,800 vehicles have engaged in operations to contain the wildfires, he said, adding air elements had made 1,650 sorties on Thursday alone.

At least 770 people have been affected by the fires, with six of them currently receiving treatment in hospitals, Çavuşoğlu added. As many as 1,352 buildings are seriously damaged or completely destroyed. So far, almost $2 million (TL 17 million) has been distributed for 1,055 families affected by the fires, Çavuşoğlu said, adding "we will quickly provide financial aid for citizens in areas which have been damaged." The minister also said that the U.S. has offered to send two helicopters to help Turkey battle the massive fires and that the two countries are now working on the details.

The government has put extraordinary efforts into fighting the fires since they erupted nine days ago, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu said at the same press conference. "We will make great efforts to remove the traces of this disaster," he stressed. Noting that they are visiting the neighborhoods affected by the fires one by one, he said they are determining the needs of people on the ground. "We continue to work effectively and in coordination with all our ministries and relevant institutions to meet these needs quickly," he added.

A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has contributed to wildfires breaking out across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece. The heat wave is forecast to continue in Turkey and Greece until the end of the week. On Thursday, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli suggested the creation of a mechanism under which Mediterranean nations would assist each other in combating forest fires. "The time has come for a Mediterranean union to fight against forest fires because it is clear that from now on we will have to live with hot weather and global warming," he said.

(c) Daily Sabah


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