Published On: Sat, Jul 31st, 2021

Turkey: Raging Fires Threaten Tourism

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By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Raging fires since Wednesday are threatening to derail Turkey’s tourism sector, wreaking havoc in touristic areas as well as destroying entire villages. Scorching heat, a drought and strong winds have contributed to the wildfires rapidly spreading across Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal areas including Bodrum, Antalya, Marmaris and Manavgat.  Currently, three of 10 active fires are in the Antalya region. Turkish citizens and tourists have been forced to evacuate and entire forests burned to the ground. On Twitter, earlier on Saturday, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli reported that 88 of 98 fires are currently under control while neighborhoods in five provinces were declared disaster zones by the emergency and disaster authorities. A number of villages were totally destroyed by the fires as well as countless homes including some hotels.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan pledged to provide funding for rent to citizens whose property was destroyed and said the Turkish government will pay to rebuild their homes. In addition, the Turkish leader pledged to postpone social security, credit payments and taxes for those affected by the fires. He also said small businesses will be offered credit with no interest.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported the current death toll from wildfires in Turkish Mediterranean towns reached six on Saturday. The Turkish president said firefighting planes doubled to 13 – including those from the Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Thousands of Turkish personnel and dozens of helicopters as well as drones were dispatched in efforts to quell the inferno. Koca said 400 people affected by the fires in Manavgat were treated at hospitals then released while 10 people remain hospitalized for fire-related injuries. At least 159 people were treated at the hospital in Marmaris and an additional person is still in treatment for burns there. In addition, in southern Hatay province wildfires spread to populated regions but reported they were later under control. A heatwave across southern Europe along with hot air from Africa were cited as contributing factors in the fires spreading. Meanwhile, temperatures in Greece and neighboring countries are expected to reach over 107 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday in a number of cities and towns. Turkey’s president announced Saturday that authorities are actively investigating the origins of the fires and that sabotage has not been ruled out. Previous forest fires have been blamed on arson or Kurdish militants.

Earlier on Saturday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu joined Pakdemirli in a press conference for an update on the fires.

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