Battle against wildfires in Turkey’s drought-hit areas continues

At least eight people have died as efforts continue to put out forest fires across several parts of the country. Around 10,000 people evacuated in Mugla province.

Firefighters using planes and helicopters, joined by locals with buckets of water, continue to battle wildfires that have been raging for a sixth day near southern coastal resorts in Turkey.

Many villagers in fire-hit areas have lost their homes and farm animals and have had trouble breathing amid the heavy smoke.

Overall, some 10,000 people have been evacuated in Mugla province alone, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said crews were still tackling seven fires in the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla that are popular tourist areas.

Other active fires were in Isparta, 380 kilometres (236 miles) northeast, and in Denizli province in southwest Turkey.

Another fire in Tunceli, in southeast Turkey, was contained on Monday, the minister said. In all, 129 fires that broke out in over 30 provinces since Wednesday have been extinguished.

“We are going through days when the heat is above 40 C (104 degrees Fahrenheit), where the winds are strong and humidity is extremely low,” Pakdemirli said. “We are struggling under such difficult conditions.”

Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months.

Earlier, Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said that all the means of the state have been mobilised to combat the blazes, which have been plaguing the country since Wednesday.

Blazes broke out in at least 35 provinces, including several on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, killing at least eight people.

As many as 271 other people have been affected, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

Turkish authorities are maintaining tireless efforts to put out the fires through both aerial and ground operations.

Firefighters, including a group of 100 Azerbaijani firemen, are at work along with locals.

Tourists have been evacuated from beaches in southwestern Turkey, where raging wildfires are threatening hotels and homes.

Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said at least 27 people affected by the fires were still being treated in hospitals while hundreds of others had been treated and released.

Soylu, the interior minister, said authorities were investigating the cause of the fires, including human “carelessness” and possible sabotage by the PKK terrorist organisation.

He said one person was detained over allegations that he may have been paid by the group to start a fire.

Experts however, mostly point to climate change as being behind the fires, along with accidents caused by people. Erdogan has said one of the fires was started by children.

A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece, where people had to be evacuated by sea to escape the flames.

Many countries have offered help

Locals as well as support teams from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan were deployed to help firefighters.

The Turkish government pledged to rebuild damaged homes and compensate for losses in areas affected by the fires.

The minister of forestry and agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, said at least 13 planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 828 fire-fighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts.

The EU said it had helped mobilise three fire-fighting planes on Sunday, one from Croatia and two from Spain, after Turkey activated a disaster response scheme to request help from other European countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked Brussels on Monday for sending the water bombers.

The European Union said it “stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time” – a message designed to show goodwill after more than a year of heated disputes.

Azerbaijan dispatches team

Azerbaijan dispatched another firefighting team early on Monday.

The support team arrived at Turkey’s border with Georgia and entered the country through the northeastern province of Artvin.

Consisting of 53 vehicles including 41 fire trucks and 220 personnel, the team was received by excited Turkish citizens who showed their appreciation for the Azerbaijani and Turkish flags.

After a fuel delivery, the team moved on towards the areas suffering from massive fires.

“We have come here with experienced colleagues to extinguish the fires,” said the chief of the team, Colonel Nazar Bagisov.

“We stand with brotherly Turkey, and we will do so under all circumstances,” he added.

Turkish authorities are maintaining tireless efforts to put out the fires through both aerial and ground operations. Firefighters, including a group of 100 Azerbaijani firemen, have also been working along with locals to fight the blazes.

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