Turkish wildfires force 1000 tourists and locals to flee by boat

·3 min read
Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas - Zuma Press / eyevine
Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas - Zuma Press / eyevine

More than 1000 panicked holidaymakers and residents were evacuated from the tourist hotspot of Bodrum over the weekend as Turkey struggles to contain the wildfires that have raged across the country’s Mediterranean towns over the past week.

Videos on social media showed tourists hurrying towards the beach to be evacuated by boat as the sky was engulfed into deeper shades of orange and smoke pummelled towards them from the mountain top forest area.

The Turkish coast guard led the operation with authorities pleading for help from local boat and yacht owners to get people to safety as increasing numbers of fires were sparking.

Since Wednesday more than 100 fast-spreading fires have broken out, desiccating rural areas and killing livestock while also sweeping across summer tourism destinations, dealing a fresh blow to the country's fragile economy.

At least six people have been killed, including two forest workers, and hundreds more have been injured.

Six people have died and hundreds injured - AFP via Getty Images
Six people have died and hundreds injured - AFP via Getty Images


Parts of five provinces of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast have been declared “disaster zones”, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, announced after a helicopter trip over the worst-hit areas.

"We cannot do anything beyond wishing the mercy of God for the lives we have lost but we can replace everything that was burned," Mr Erdogan said when he visited Manavgat, where the fires initially started.

The president said the Turkish government would pay to rebuild the homes and pay the rent of those affected by the fires. He also offered small businesses a line of credit with zero interest and paused taxes, social security and credit payments.

Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Ukraine have sent planes to help combat the wildfires, while many residents have severely criticised the government for what they say are inadequate firefighting resources.

A video circulating on Twitter showed a local resident of Manavgat, shouting “does Turkey only have three planes?” at the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, when he visited the town on Thursday. Turkish Twitter users have also criticised the government for using private planes while allowing a lack of investment into firefighting capabilities.

People spend time at the sea backdropped by the wildfires burning in Marmaris - ERDEM SAHIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People spend time at the sea backdropped by the wildfires burning in Marmaris - ERDEM SAHIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock



By Sunday, only five of the 112 fires were yet to be contained, according to Bekir Pakdemirli, the minister of agriculture and forestry. He added that while fires were still blazing in Manavgat, the one in Bodrum that forced evacuations on Saturday had been contained.

Turkish authorities are investigating the cause of the fires, with several high-ranking officials pointing towards sabotage or “an attack”.

The hot and dry summers of the Mediterranean and Aegean areas of Turkey leading to forest fires are an annual occurrence, but experts believe that regardless of the cause, the unprecedented fast-paced spread of this year’s fires have been worsened by climate change.

According to Mr Pakdemirli, temperatures of 37 degrees, 50km per hour winds and less than 14 per cent humidity had helped fan the flames of the initial fires.

A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece where temperatures are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius on Monday in many cities and towns.



On the Italian island of Sicily, firemen said on Saturday they were battling for a second straight day wildfires that reached the town of Catania, forcing people to leave their homes and the local airport to temporarily shut down.

In western Greece, a wildfire that broke out Saturday forced the evacuation of four villages and people on a beach by the Fire Service, the Coast Guard and private boats.

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