President Erdogan says an investigation into the causes of wildfires has been opened in southern Turkey as the death toll rises to six.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declares parts of southern Turkey destroyed by wildfires as ‘disaster areas’, with the death toll from the fires up to six after two forest workers were killed.
Fires in Turkey since Wednesday have burned down forests, invaded towns and tourist destinations and forced people to evacuate.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli said on Saturday that 88 of 98 fires caused by strong winds and scorching heat had been brought under control.
At least five people were killed in Manavgat and one died in Marmaris. Both towns are located on the Mediterranean Sea and are tourist destinations.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 400 people affected by the fires in Manavgat have been discharged from hospitals and 10 are still being treated. In Marmaris, 159 people were treated and one person is still being treated for burns.
New fires broke out in the south of Hatay province where flames jumped to populated areas, but they appear to have been brought under control.
Turkish media say hotel guests in parts of the Aegean city of Bodrum have been told to evacuate and authorities have called on private boats and yachts to help with evacuation efforts across the sea.
President Erdogan visited infected areas on Saturday by examining a helicopter.
Erdogan declared the regions affected by the forest fires ‘disaster areas’ in a statement on Twitter.
“We will continue to take all necessary steps to heal the wounds of our country, to compensate for the losses and to improve the opportunities,” Erdogan said.
From the city of Manavgat, in southern Turkey, Erdogan later told a news conference that while Ankara did not want to politicize the incident, it was also considering “the possibility of sabotage” and an investigation was underway to determine the causes of the fires.
Turkey has blamed some previous forest fires on arson or banned groups such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Erdogan said the government would provide compensation for families who lost their homes or agricultural land. He said taxes, social security and credit payments for those affected would be postponed and that small businesses would offer interest-free credit.
“We can do nothing but wish the grace of God for the lives we have lost, but we can replace everything that has been burned,” he said.
Erdogan said the number of firefighting planes had increased from six to 13, including planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and that thousands of Turkish personnel, as well as dozens of helicopters and drones were assisting in the firefighting efforts.
Resul Serdar of Al Jazeera told Antalya that there are still active forest fires in at least 10 places in Turkey.
“Erdogan said that great efforts are being made to bring the fires under control. Yet it is still very difficult … fires continue to burn, ”Serdar said.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the dry summer months.
More than 2,600 fires have broken out on average each year over the past decade, but they have risen to nearly 3,400 last year, said Husrev Ozkara, vice-president of the Turkish Forestry Association.
A heat wave across southern Europe, fueled by warm air from Africa, led to wildfires across the Mediterranean.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeastern Europe are expected to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) in many cities and towns on Monday and will only be relieved later next week.