Turkey unites in fight against multiple forest fires
Turkey has mobilized and united in efforts to fight against wildfires that have wreaked havoc on swathes of the country’s south and Aegean region, as the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry said 107 of 112 fires have been brought under control as of early Aug. 1.
People across the country are sending food aid to the disaster zones, while inhabitants at the scene of fires are carrying water to firefighters and aid to the victims.
The blazes began in early July 28 in four separate locations, including the most destructive in the Manavgat district of the southern province of Antalya. The fires broke out almost in tandem across other Mediterranean provinces, then across some 40 provinces and districts in 50 hours.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said on Twitter that a total of 112 fires have erupted since July 28 and 107 of them have been contained. The efforts to contain the remaining five fires are underway in Antalya's Manavgat and Gündoğmuş, along with the Marmaris, Köyceğiz, and Milas districts of Muğla, he added.
“We have witnessed the people’s efforts in Marmaris,” a reporter from daily Hürriyet reported on Aug. 1.
“People were running towards hills with their pickaxes and shovels to help the firefighters. Some others were carrying water, food, or medical aid to the area.”
According to the daily, among the helpers are people who have been evacuated from their houses due to fires. Rather than sitting in grief, “those people are fighting the fires as well.”
People helping put out the fire are recommended to drink ayran, a popular cold savory yogurt-based beverage which is thought to be preventative against smoke poisoning.
“The biggest problem firefighters face is the transportation due to small paths in the forests,” the daily said.
“That’s why motorcyclists come to help. They deliver food and water on bikes.”
Volunteer medical staff and veterinarians also wait to close the fire regions to help humans and the animals affected by the fires or the smoke.
Marmaris Mayor Mehmet Oktay thanked people for their support but asked for aerial help.
“We don’t have a shortage of water or food. Mobile chargers are our priority in the help. Also, the fight against the fire on land may not be sufficient. We urgently need helicopters to drop water from the sky,” he said.
Speaking in Marmaris, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on July 31 that teams from Muğla, other provinces, and Azerbaijan continue their work in the region.
Overall, an aircraft, 80 water tanks, 35 tankers, 31 construction machines, 176 service vehicles and 1,400 personnel are at work, he said.
Erdoğan said one of the fires in Marmaris was started by children, and that further investigations are underway. A suspect was detained in the Milas district, he added and did not rule out the link between wildfires and terrorist organizations.
Azerbaijan on July 31 provided 53 fire trucks to Turkey, where forest fires in the past few days have led to deaths as well as material damage.
The Emergency Situations Ministry sent the vehicles meant to fight large fires, as well as 220 personnel by land. Earlier, 100 Azerbaijani firefighters arrived in Muğla.
While the trucks will reach the affected areas in two days, Baku will also send a helicopter on Aug. 1. Many other countries have also offered help.
The fires started on July 28 with most in southern regions. At least seven people have been killed.
As many as 271 other people have been affected by the wildfires, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
Erdoğan said 50 million Turkish liras ($5.91million) have been released to meet the urgent needs in areas that have experienced destruction and property damage. He said Turkey is mobilizing all means to bring the blazes under control.