At least 6 dead in Turkey wildfires; blazes in Italy, Greece prompt evacuations
Heat wave fed by hot air from Africa has led to wildfires in Mediterranean
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 that 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 blaze 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, about 150 kilometres 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 the white iconic houses of Bodrum and a helicopter discharging water. Firefighters are trying to control the blaze before it reaches residential areas.
With deadly heat waves, 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 heat waves along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions, with temperatures expected to rise by 4 to 8 C over their seasonal average, Turkish meteorological authorities say.
Cumhurbaşkanı <a href="https://twitter.com/RTErdogan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RTErdogan</a>, Manavgat Kalemler Mahallesi’nde orman yangınlarından etkilenen vatandaşlarla bir araya geldi. <a href="https://t.co/aUZ3WJU23S">pic.twitter.com/aUZ3WJU23S</a>—@tcbestepe
They are forecast to reach 43 to 47 C in Antalya next week.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to Manavgat on Saturday that 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 said.
Evacuations in Italy, Greece
Meanwhile, a heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.
Firefighters on the Italian island of Sicily on Saturday battled dozens of blazes fueled by high temperatures, prompting the region's governor to request assistance from Rome. Some 150 people trapped in two seaside areas in the city of Catania were evacuated late Friday by sea, where they were picked up by rubber dinghies and transferred to Coast Guard boats.
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.
The fire was in a mountain forest 30 kilometres east of Patras, Greece's third-largest city, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said late Saturday. Aided by strong winds, the fire raced down the slopes and threatened seaside villages.
The Civil Protection Agency sent text messages to the residents of four villages — two in the mountains and two by the sea — to evacuate. Local media said some villagers refused to leave and were trying to fight the fire with garden hoses.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees C Monday in many cities and towns.
With files from The Associated Press