Efforts continue to put out forest fires as death toll rises

Efforts Continue To Put Out Forest Fires As Death Toll Rises

Some 125 of 132 fires that erupted since July 29 are under control, a Turkish official has said, as firefighter teams and locals battle dozens of wildfires across the country that have so far claimed eight lives.

“Forest fires at seven points in [the southwestern provinces of] Antalya, Muğla and Isparta continue. Teams continue to work day and night to control the fires by land and air,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.

Noting that another fire broke out in Isparta at noon, Pakdemirli stated that an aircraft, 15 water tenders and over 200 personnel were immediately dispatched to the area.

Turkey has suffered the worst fires in at least a decade, official data show, with nearly 95,000 hectares burned so far this year, compared with an average of 13,516 hectares at this point in the years between 2008 and 2020.

The wildfires tearing through the resort regions of the country’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts have destroyed large swathes of pristine forest and forced the evacuation of panicked tourists from their hotels.

Some videos that went viral on social media show that the night sky glowed amber, and the smoke-filled air was heavy and hard to breathe in stifling heat of around 40 degrees Celsius.

Weather services warned locals of poor air quality, and volunteers spent sleepless nights helping fatigued firefighters save lush forests from the devastation that experts say may take generations to restore.

The mercury is expected to reach 42 degrees Celsius on Aug. 3 in Antalya, according to the meteorology authority.

“The weather is extremely hot and humidity is very low,” Pakdemirli said, adding that the humidity, which should normally be at 30 percent in this season, would drop to 8 percent.

Several neighborhoods in the tourist city of Bodrum were evacuated, the mayor said on Aug. 1, as strong winds from nearby Milas district fanned the flames.

Over 1,100 residents were taken aboard on nearly 20 boats to take them to another part of Bodrum, as it was not possible to evacuate people by road, Bodrum Mayor Ahmet Aras said.

More residents were evacuated from the coastal city of Marmaris in Muğla by boat with assistance from the naval force, the Defense Ministry said.

Emergency rescue boats still stand on standby at the Marmaris shoreline to evacuate anyone should the fires spread and the town be cut off.

A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including the Italian island of Sicily and western Greece.

Drones help fight against fires

Turkey’s domestically produced drones – Bayraktar TB2 and Aksungur – are actively taking part in efforts to put out forest fires, the head of Turkey's Defense Industries Presidency said on Aug. 1.

“Aksungur UAV detected three tower workers during its mission flight yesterday, and thankfully, it helped them escape the flames,” İsmail Demir tweeted.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, are often used in wildfire surveillance and suppression. They help in the detection, containment, and extinguishing of fires.

Countries send support messages 

Yemen, Palestine and Egypt conveyed their condolences on Aug. 1 to Turkey, where wildfires in the past few days have led to deaths and material damage.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak sent a message to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, expressing his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the fires, according to Yemen’s Foreign Ministry.

Mubarak also wished a speedy recovery for the injured, stressing that Yemen is on the side of the “fraternal” Turkish people in the fight against this natural disaster.

A delegation of Palestinian scholars also issued a message of condolence.

"We are deeply saddened by the wildfires that have erupted in many parts of fraternal country Turkey," it said.

“We extend our condolences to those who lost their lives and to their families. We heartily share the pain of the fraternal Turkish people.”

The message also said that Palestine is praying for all of the firefighting teams and wishes them success.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Islamic world, published a statement expressing its sorrow and conveying its condolences for the forest fire victims and their relatives as well as all the workers and volunteers trying to stem the spread of the massive fires.

Al-Azhar also wished for an urgent healing to the injured, according to their statement on Facebook.

The statement said Al-Azhar was on the side of the Turkish people in the face of this tragic event.

On July 31, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry also sent a message of solidarity to Turkey, which is fighting the fires.

"Today, I extend my condolences for the loss of lives by the deadly wildfires in Turkey. Our solidarity and thoughts are with the people of Turkey and the firefighters battling the blazes," Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Twitter.

Qatar has sent a team to Turkey to take part in search and rescue activities amid the forest fires, local media reported on Aug. 1.

According to Qatar’s state news agency QNA, a team from the Qatar International Search and Rescue Group of the Qatari Internal Security Forces departed for Turkey at the instruction of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Croatia will send a firefighting plane to Turkey as part of the fight against the fires, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Twitter.

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