July 31, 2021
By Mert Ozkan
MANAVGAT (Reuters) – Days after a raging wildfire in southern Turkey drove his family from the home they lived in for four decades, Mehmet Demir returned on Saturday to discover a burnt-out building, charred belongings and ashes.
Bedsprings, a ladder, metal chairs and some kitchenware were the only things left identifiable after some of the worst fires in years tore through the region, with several still burning four days after they erupted on Wednesday.
Demir’s home, near the coastal Mediterranean town of Manavgat, not far from the popular tourist resort Antalya, was hit by one of almost 100 fires which officials say broke out this week across southern and western Turkey, where sweltering heat and strong winds fanned the flames.
“The blaze spread through the highlands and raged suddenly,” Demir told Reuters as he looked around the wreckage of his home, built in 1982. “We had to flee to the centre of Manavgat. Then we came back to find the house like this.”
“This was our (only) saving for the past 39-40 years. We are now left with the clothes we are wearing, me and my wife. There is nothing to do. This is when words fail.”
The death toll from the fires rose to six on Saturday, as two firefighting personnel died during efforts to control the fire in Manavgat, broadcaster CNN Turk said. Thousands were evacuated from their homes.
Satellite imagery showed smoke from the fires in Antalya and Mersin was extending to the island of Cyprus, around 150 km (100 miles) away.
Wildfires are common in southern Turkey in the hot summer months but local authorities say the latest fires have covered a much bigger area.
On Saturday a new blaze erupted in the popular holiday resort town of Bodrum on the Aegean coast and some residential areas and hotels were evacuated, according to broadcasters.
Video footage showed plumes of smoke rising from mountains above white iconic houses of Bodrum and a helicopter discharging water. Firefighters are trying to control the blaze before it reaches residential areas.
With deadly heatwaves, flooding and wildfires occurring around the world, calls are growing for urgent action to cut the CO2 emissions heating the planet.
Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said a total of 98 fires had broken out in the past four days, of which 88 were under control.
Fires continued in southern coastal provinces of Adana, Osmaniye, Antalya, Mersin and the western coastal province of Mugla, a popular resort region for Turks and foreign tourists, where some hotels have been evacuated this week.
Weather forecasts point to heatwaves along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions, with temperatures expected to rise by 4 to 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 Fahrenheit) over their seasonal average, Turkish meteorological authorities say.
They are forecast to reach 43 to 47 C in Antalya next week.
President Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to Manavgat on Saturday all damaged houses would be rebuilt and losses compensated.
Neighbouring Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine and Iran have sent firefighting planes and support teams to the affected areas, he added.
(Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul, editing by Dominic Evans and Clelia Oziel)