Hatay governor hints at arson claims in fire

Hatay governor hints at arson claims in fire

HATAY - Hürriyet Daily News
Hatay governor hints at arson claims in fire

Firefighters are still battling to control the fire yesterday in Hatay’s Samandağ, according to reports. AA photo

A forest fire that damaged nearly 400 hectares in the southern province of Hatay’s Samandağ district on Aug. 7 might have been caused by arson, according to the local governor.

“The fact that the fire broke out in eight separate points at the same time brings to mind the possibility of arson,” Hatay Gov. Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz said, but added that no one had been taken into custody in connection to the blaze.

Firefighters were still battling to control the fire yesterday in Samandağ.

The fire first started on Aug. 4 in eight different points in an area between Samandağ’s northwestern village of Çubuklu and the southwestern village of Seldiren before spreading toward Yaylacık village due to strong wind.

Arson claims

The Hatay Governor’s Office said the possibility of arson was high because the fire had started in the same parts of the forest on two different days.

“The first fire started on Aug. 4 in two different points, but [the blaze] was extinguished within a short span of time; On Aug. 5, however, this was repeated despite the district fire department’s precautions,” Vahit Harputluoğlu, the governor’s press consultant, told the Daily News yesterday.
But Harputluoğlu dismissed the possibility that Syrian agents might have had a role in starting the alleged arson since the villages of Çubukçu, Yaylacık and Seldiren are not close to the Syrian border.
Locals also believe there is little chance of Syrian involvement, said Harputluoğlu, but hinted that that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) might have ignited the blaze. “We have taken necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our people and their property. We are trying to contain the fire with the help of approximately 150 work machines, fire engines, airplanes, helicopters and bulldozers. Close to 400 forest workers and villagers are participating in our efforts,” the governor said.

“Unless there is an extraordinary change in the weather, we will have the wildfire under our complete control by the early hours of [today],” Lekesiz was quoted as saying.