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Turkey has fought more than 100 wildfires after a series of fires near the Mediterranean coast killed six people and forced thousands of residents and foreign tourists to flee resorts, the government said on Sunday.
Winds blowing at 50 km / h, low humidity and temperatures hovering near 40C have made it difficult to control the fires, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said on Twitter, commenting in state media.
The fires started on July 28, and the simultaneous onset of so many fires raised the suspicion that they were deliberately started, Pakdemirli said, although he did not provide evidence of arson.
About 100 Russian citizens were evacuated from the Bodrum peninsula in western Turkey on Saturday and moved to hotels elsewhere, the Russian consulate in the city of Antalya said in a statement, according to Sputnik, a Russian state media. Local tourists were also among the evacuated, and some were forced to leave by sea while the flame cut off other escape routes.
Flights from Russia, Turkey’s largest tourist source, only resumed in late June after Moscow suspended rental travel amid a record-breaking outbreak of Covid-19 cases in Turkey in the spring. Coronavirus-related travel restrictions to Turkey have hammered its tourism sector, which accounts for about 13 percent of gross domestic product directly and indirectly.
The website of the Ministry of Forestry showed at least 15 active fires on Sunday. According to Turkish media, villagers and forestry workers were among the six people who died. Mehmet Oktay, mayor of the resort of Marmaris, said one volunteer firefighter was killed and another 100 people were injured in a spate of fires that burned more than 10,000 acres near the city.
A half-dozen fires are still burning areas that are mostly inaccessible, and the number of fires across Turkey means there are not enough firefighting aircraft available, he said. ‘It’s heartbreaking, and I’m fighting back tears to concentrate on the emergency. It will take more than a decade to restore this land, ‘he said.
Thousands of farm animals and numerous wild animals also perished in the fires, which according to a meteorologist reached 200C.
Wildfires occur annually in the southwest of Turkey’s pine forests, and one expert told CNN Turk television that 95 percent are intentionally or accidentally caused by humans.
Yet the scale of the current assault is remarkable, and some blame climate change for the disaster. Turkey recorded its highest temperature ever in a southeastern city last month, and much of the country was hit by drought this year, while deadly floods hit northeastern Turkey last month.
Several other Mediterranean countries are struggling this summer, including Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon and Italy, and scientists have said the extreme weather conditions around the world this summer could be the result of global warming.