ISTANBUL－Panicked tourists in Turkey hurried to the seashore to wait for rescue boats on Saturday after being told to evacuate some hotels in the Aegean Sea resort of Bodrum because of the dangers posed by nearby wildfires, Turkish media reported.
Coast Guard units led the operation and authorities asked owners of private vessels including yachts to help in evacuation efforts from the sea as new wildfires erupted. A video showed plumes of smoke and fire enveloping a hill close to the seashore.
The death toll from wildfires raging in Turkey’s Mediterranean towns rose to six on Saturday after two forest workers were killed, the country’s health minister Fahrettin Koca said. Fires across Turkey since Wednesday have burned down forests and some settlements, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations and forcing people to evacuate.
The Minister of Forestry and Agriculture Bekir Pakdemirli tweeted that five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were “under control”. The fires in Antalya were continuing in two districts.
Erdogan said during a visit to Manavgat on Saturday that all damaged houses would be rebuilt and losses compensated, adding that the number of aircraft fighting the fires had been increased from six to 13, including some from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Ukraine, and that thousands of Turkish personnel as well as dozens of helicopters and drones were helping to fight the fires.
In a speech from Marmaris on Saturday night, Erdogan said one of the fires there had been started by children, and investigations were continuing.
At least five people had died from the fires in Manavgat and one died in Marmaris. Both towns are Mediterranean tourist destinations. Tourism is an important source of revenue for Turkey, and business owners were hoping that this summer would be much better than last year’s, when pandemic travel restrictions caused tourism to plummet.
Koca said 400 people affected by the fires in Manavgat were treated at hospitals and discharged, and 10 others with fire injuries were still in hospital. In Marmaris 159 people were treated at the hospital and one person was undergoing treatment for burns.
Common in the region
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months.
A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has also led to wildfires across other Mediterranean countries, including 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 ask Italy’s central government for help. About 150 people trapped in two seaside areas in the city of Catania were evacuated late on 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 on 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 kilometers east of Patras, Greece’s third-largest city, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said late on Saturday. Aided by strong winds, the fire raced down the slopes and threatened seaside villages.