Firefighters battle to extinguish ‘Turkey’s worst fires in living memory’


Turkey is battling its ‘worst fires in living memory’ as infernos raging across the country’s south entered their sixth consecutive day today – with no end to the crisis in sight.

Worst-hit are the provinces of Antalya and Mugla – which contain the popular tourist resorts of Marmaris and Side – where swathes of forest have been destroyed – leaving eight dead, and forcing travellers and locals to evacuate. 

Nine fires are still burning in those two provinces, forestry officials said today, fanned by strong winds and fed on timber dried to a crisp by a 40C heatwave. Such is the extent of the damage, they were unable to guess at how many acres had been destroyed. 

Smaller fires were also burning in Adana and Isparta as critics hit out at President Erdogan, accusing him of leaving the country unprepared for the crisis and of failing to reach out to western countries for help sooner.

Meanwhile, there were multiple evacuations near Athens after a wildfire broke out on Tuesday and reached residential areas as temperatures reached 42C in parts of the Greek capital.

Help is now on the way after celebrities and regional ministers appealed for help on social media, with water-carrying planes sent from Spain, Croatia and Ukraine after it emerged Turkey does not have access to any.

Two men fight a desperate battle against flames engulfing woodland in Turkey’s Antalya province, where fires have now been burning for six days and show no signs of stopping

Forestry officials have described the fires as Turkey's worst 'in living memory' and were unable to even estimate the extent of the destructions they have caused

Forestry officials have described the fires as Turkey’s worst ‘in living memory’ and were unable to even estimate the extent of the destructions they have caused

A car drives through smoke-filled skies and past firefighters who are trying to douse nine blazes across Turkey's Antalya and Mugla provinces, where at least eight people have died and dozens have been injured

A car drives through smoke-filled skies and past firefighters who are trying to douse nine blazes across Turkey’s Antalya and Mugla provinces, where at least eight people have died and dozens have been injured

A man flees from flames during efforts to extinguish nine fires in southern Turkey that have been raging for six days, fed on tinder-dry vegetation and fanned by strong winds

A man flees from flames during efforts to extinguish nine fires in southern Turkey that have been raging for six days, fed on tinder-dry vegetation and fanned by strong winds

A woman at a resort on Turkey's southern coast watches as flames get closer to the beach. Hundreds of locals and tourists have already been forced to evacuate as the fires rip through woodland

A woman at a resort on Turkey’s southern coast watches as flames get closer to the beach. Hundreds of locals and tourists have already been forced to evacuate as the fires rip through woodland

A senior forestry official described the fires as the worst in living memory, saying it is impossible to tell how long it will take to put out the flames as patches that had previously been brought under control were reignited by winds.

As residents lost homes and livestock, anger turned towards the government, which admitted it did not have a firefighting aircraft fleet and that existing planes were not in usable condition.

Opposition parties accused the government of failing to procure firefighting planes while channelling funds for construction projects they say are harmful to the environment.

Mr Erdogan’s government has also been accused of compromising firefighting efforts by refusing help from Western nations, including rival Greece, during the early stages.

A tree is engulfed by flames as wildfires rip through the south of Turkey, causing devastation so widespread that officials are unable to estimate its true scale

A tree is engulfed by flames as wildfires rip through the south of Turkey, causing devastation so widespread that officials are unable to estimate its true scale

Agriculture and forestry minister Bekir Pakdemirli rejected the accusation, saying the government had only refused offers of planes whose water-dumping capacities were less than five tons.

The Israeli embassy said Israel had also offered to help but Turkish officials had refused, saying the ‘situation is under control’.

Local mayors posted videos pleading for responses to wildfires in their areas while celebrities joined a social media campaign requesting foreign help.

The campaign drew an angry response from a senior Erdogan aide, Fahrettin Altun, who said: ‘Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing strong.’

Fire-dumping planes from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan are already at work in the country. A total of 16 planes, 51 helicopters and more than 5,000 personnel were tackling the fires, officials said.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca said 36 people in Mugla and 11 people in Antalya were being treated in hospitals for fire-related injuries.

Authorities have launched investigations into the cause of the fires, including possible sabotage by Kurdish militants, but experts mostly point to climate change, along with accidents caused by people.

A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.

In Italy, the head of the civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio, described wildfires affecting much of central and southern Italy as ‘dramatic’.

Firefighters on Tuesday were fighting seven major blazes in Calabria, Sicily, Basilicata and Puglia, employing aircraft near Matera, in Basilicata and around three fires in Calabria.

Authorities in Greece closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours as temperatures reached 42C in parts of the Greek capital.

A forest fire broke out on Tuesday in Dekelia, north of Athens, cutting a section of the main motorway between Athens to northern and southern Greece, officials said, as the nation reels under a severe heatwave. 

Greece grappled with the worst heatwave in decades that strained the national power supply and caused forest fires to break out.

Meanwhile, there were multiple evacuations near Athens after a wildfire broke out in Dekelia (pictured) on Tuesday and reached residential areas as temperatures reached 42C in parts of the Greek capital

Meanwhile, there were multiple evacuations near Athens after a wildfire broke out in Dekelia (pictured) on Tuesday and reached residential areas as temperatures reached 42C in parts of the Greek capital

A forest fire broke out on Tuesday in Dekelia, north of Athens, cutting a section of the main motorway between Athens to northern and southern Greece, officials said, as the nation reels under a severe heatwave

A forest fire broke out on Tuesday in Dekelia, north of Athens, cutting a section of the main motorway between Athens to northern and southern Greece, officials said, as the nation reels under a severe heatwave

Flames burn on the mountain near Limni village on the island of Evia, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Athens on Tuesday as Greece grappled with the worst heatwave in decades that strained the national power supply

Flames burn on the mountain near Limni village on the island of Evia, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Athens on Tuesday as Greece grappled with the worst heatwave in decades that strained the national power supply

Greece grappled with the worst heatwave in decades that strained the national power supply and caused forest fires to break out. Pictured: Smoke from a wildfire spreads over Athens

Greece grappled with the worst heatwave in decades that strained the national power supply and caused forest fires to break out. Pictured: Smoke from a wildfire spreads over Athens

An airplane drops water during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens, Greece, on Tuesday. The Greek Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country on Tuesday

An airplane drops water during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens, Greece, on Tuesday. The Greek Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country on Tuesday

Thousands of people fled their homes (pictured in Tatoi) north of Athens on Tuesday after the wildfire reached residential areas and send a huge cloud of smoke over Athens

Thousands of people fled their homes (pictured in Tatoi) north of Athens on Tuesday after the wildfire reached residential areas and send a huge cloud of smoke over Athens

Thousands of people fled their homes north of Athens on Tuesday after the wildfire reached residential areas and send a huge cloud of smoke over Athens.

There were multiple evacuations near Tatoi, 20km to the north and residents left their homes in cars and on motorcycles, heading toward the capital amid a blanket of smoke.

‘It is a large fire and it will take a lot of work to get this under control,’ greater Athens regional governor George Patoulis told state-run ERT television. 

‘The foliage is very dense in these areas and it is very dried out due to the heat wave, so the conditions are difficult.’

As the flames approached their homes, residents were seen running to their cars, faces covered with dampened cloths to protect them from the heavy smoke. 

One group stopped to help staff from a riding school push their horses into trucks to escape the flames.

Fire crews went house to house to ensure that evacuation orders were carried out.

As the heat wave scorching the eastern Mediterranean intensified, temperatures reached 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in parts of the Greek capital.  

Wildfires also raged in other parts of Greece, prompting evacuations in a coastal area of the southern Peloponnese region as well as on the islands of Evia and Kos, authorities said.

The fires prompted Greek basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo to cancel celebrations planned in Athens for the NBA championship he won recently with the Milwaukee Bucks.

There were multiple evacuations near Tatoi, 20km to the north and residents left their homes in cars and on motorcycles, heading toward the capital amid a blanket of smoke (pictured over Athens)

There were multiple evacuations near Tatoi, 20km to the north and residents left their homes in cars and on motorcycles, heading toward the capital amid a blanket of smoke (pictured over Athens)

The extreme heat, described by authorities as the worst in Greece since 1987, has strained the national power supply and fuelled the wildfires (pictured over Athens)

The extreme heat, described by authorities as the worst in Greece since 1987, has strained the national power supply and fuelled the wildfires (pictured over Athens)

Earlier, authorities closed the Acropolis (pictured) and other ancient sites during afternoon hours. The site, which is normally open in the summer from 8am to 8pm, will have reduced hours through Friday, closing between midday and 5pm

Earlier, authorities closed the Acropolis (pictured) and other ancient sites during afternoon hours. The site, which is normally open in the summer from 8am to 8pm, will have reduced hours through Friday, closing between midday and 5pm

Volunteer firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire close to beehives at Varympompi suburb north of Athens on Tuesday

Volunteer firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire close to beehives at Varympompi suburb north of Athens on Tuesday

Greek authorities described the heatwave as the most intense in more than 30 years. Pictured: An airplane drops water during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens

 Greek authorities described the heatwave as the most intense in more than 30 years. Pictured: An airplane drops water during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens

Flames burn through a forest area during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens on Tuesday

Flames burn through a forest area during a wildfire that broke out in Tatoi, northern Athens on Tuesday

The national grid operator said the power supply to part of the capital was 'endangered' after part of the transmission system, damaged and threatened by the fires, was shut down. Pictured: Flames burn in Tatoi, northern Athens

The national grid operator said the power supply to part of the capital was ‘endangered’ after part of the transmission system, damaged and threatened by the fires, was shut down. Pictured: Flames burn in Tatoi, northern Athens

The Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country on Tuesday, while public and some private services shifted operating hours to allow for afternoon closures. Pictured: A helicopter drops water during a wildfire in Tatoi

The Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country on Tuesday, while public and some private services shifted operating hours to allow for afternoon closures. Pictured: A helicopter drops water during a wildfire in Tatoi

‘We hope there are no victims from these fires, and of course we will postpones today’s celebration,’ Antetokounmpo wrote in a tweet.

Earlier, authorities closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours. The site, which is normally open in the summer from 8am until 8pm, will have reduced hours through Friday, closing between midday and 5pm.

The extreme heat, described by authorities as the worst in Greece since 1987, has strained the national power supply and fuelled the wildfires.

The national grid operator said the power supply to part of the capital was ‘endangered’ after part of the transmission system, damaged and threatened by the fires, was shut down.

Five water-dropping planes and five helicopters were involved in the firefighting effort near Athens, including a Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft leased from Russia. The blaze damaged electricity pylons, adding further strain on the electricity network already under pressure due to the widespread use of air conditioning.

The Greek Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country for Tuesday and Wednesday, while public and some private services shifted operating hours to allow for afternoon closures. 

The wildfire that broke out in a forest in Varybobi (pictured) on Tuesday spread quickly due to the dry conditions. There are 350 fire-fighters with 70 vehicles, 10 teams of fire fighters on foot and five helicopters and five aircrafts deployed

The wildfire that broke out in a forest in Varybobi (pictured) on Tuesday spread quickly due to the dry conditions. There are 350 fire-fighters with 70 vehicles, 10 teams of fire fighters on foot and five helicopters and five aircrafts deployed

Umbrellas and sunbeds sit on the beach near Marmaris, Mugla province, as flames torch trees in surrounding woodlands

Umbrellas and sunbeds sit on the beach near Marmaris, Mugla province, as flames torch trees in surrounding woodlands

A man makes a vain attempt to extinguish flames by beating them with a stick as they rip through woodland in Turkey's southern Antalya province

A man makes a vain attempt to extinguish flames by beating them with a stick as they rip through woodland in Turkey’s southern Antalya province

A cameraman captures scenes of the devastation in southern Turkey's Antalya province as flames cover a hilltop behind him

A cameraman captures scenes of the devastation in southern Turkey’s Antalya province as flames cover a hilltop behind him 

Two firefighters rescue a dog from flames in southern Turkey, where fires have now been raging for six days

Two firefighters rescue a dog from flames in southern Turkey, where fires have now been raging for six days

A helicopter drops water on forest fires currently burning out of control across southern Turkey

A helicopter drops water on forest fires currently burning out of control across southern Turkey

Erdogan's government has been criticised for failing to maintain a single firefighting plane, and for failing to reach out to western nations for help with the crisis sooner

Erdogan’s government has been criticised for failing to maintain a single firefighting plane, and for failing to reach out to western nations for help with the crisis sooner

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