Wildfires threaten Turkish beach resorts, tourists flee

Istanbul, Turkey — A wildfire raged on Sunday near Antalya and Mula, Turkey’s holiday beach destinations. The discovery of the corpse has killed eight people. Residents and tourists escaped danger in small boats while the Coast Guard and two naval vessels were waiting at sea in case a larger evacuation was needed.

Authorities warned tourists and residents to continue evacuating from Turunc, a seaside resort town in Marmaris, Muğla. Fires engulfed the area and strong winds made firefighting more difficult. The helicopter tried to extinguish a flame that could not be reached by land.

When residents of the villages around Marmaris sought more help on social media, people boarded a small boat with a suitcase. Others were waiting, worried about whether the fire would come down to the shore.

Turkish news agency DHA said the bodies of a Turks-German couple were found in a burnt house in Manavgat, Antalya, killing eight people in a fire that began on Wednesday. A fire broke out in a village near the town, and the villagers were evacuated by truck.

Turkish wildfire
On August 1, 2021, a wildfire rolled down a hill towards the coast of Bodrum, Turkey, evacuating tourists from the smoke-covered Maji area. (Emre Tazegul / AP Photo)

Last Sunday, police water cannons, commonly used to suppress riots, helped helicopters and fire trucks in Mugra’s popular Bodrum district fight fires. Turkish television showed that flames and smoke reignited as they approached the village after the fire had previously been extinguished.

Civilians were trying to protect their homes and olive groves, but some were already damaged. A social media video showed Bodrum tourists rolling their luggage down the street to escape the nearby flames.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 27 people affected by the fire were still being treated in hospitals and hundreds were released.

Forestry and Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli wrote on Twitter that 111 wildfires are “under control” throughout Turkey. According to his tweet, wildfires have occurred in 33 states since Wednesday.

A panicked tourist evacuated from a hotel in Bodrum on Saturday. The fire rolled down the hill towards the coast and included about 100 Russian tourists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited some of the affected areas on Saturday and promised to help residents rebuild their homes. However, social media users have criticized him for arriving at Marmaris in a large fleet of heavy traffic and for hearing him by throwing a bag of tea at people from the bus.

Turkish wildfire
Firefighters are working in a smoky Maji area on August 1, 2021 when a wildfire rolls down a hill to the coast in Bodrum, Turkey, to evacuate people. (Emre Tazegul / AP Photo)

Turkish officials say they are investigating whether a fire could have been caused by “jamming” by illegal Kurdish militants. Erdogan said one of the fires was caused by children.

Heat waves across Southern Europe, supplied by heat from North Africa, caused wildfires throughout the Mediterranean, including Sicily in Italy and western Greece. Some residents had to evacuate by boat to escape the flames.

According to Italian news agency Lapres, bathers fled Sunday afternoon on an Italian beach south of the Adriatic city of Pescara when they found smoke and flaming clouds from the fire of a nearby pine forest. Several people were reportedly injured when trying to extinguish the wind-blown flames that arrived at the house. Local officials told state television that the Elderly Housing with Care in Pescara had to be evacuated.

Temperatures in Turkey and its neighbors in Southeast Europe are expected to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 degrees Fahrenheit) on Mondays in many cities and towns. Antalya had already recorded 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in eastern Turkey’s Van province, at least six homes were destroyed in a weekend flood after a small river flooded in heavy rain. The villagers were told to leave the house immediately and climb higher.

Floods in northern Turkey last month killed at least six people.