The European Union sent help to Turkey yesterday and volunteers joined firefighters in battling a week of violent blazes that have killed eight people and put pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s struggles against its deadliest wildfires in decades come as a blistering heatwave grips southeastern Europe creating tinderbox conditions that Greek officials blame squarely on climate change.
The fires tearing through Turkey since last Wednesday have destroyed huge swathes of pristine forest and forced the evacuation of panicked tourists from seaside hotels.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked Brussels yesterday for sending a water bomber from Croatia and two from the Spanish government.
The European Union said it “stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time” — a message designed to show goodwill after more than a year of heated disputes.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said his office was investigating all options but would draw firmer conclusions once the fires were out.
“We should avoid falling into the trap of polarising the situation,” he said on a visit to one of the worst-hit coastal cities.
Turkey’s forestry directorate reported more than 130 fires in dozens of towns and cities across the country in six days.
It said seven — most of them not far from the southern resort cities of Antalya and Marmaris — continued to burn yesterday.
An AFP team in Marmaris on the Aegean Sea saw flames over the crests of forest-covered hills.
The night sky glowed amber and the smoke-filled air was hard to breathe in stifling heat of around 40 degrees Celsius.
“This is a disaster,” resident Evran Ozkan said at a makeshift centre set up to help firefighters rest and recover by the side of a road leading to the burning hills.
“Like me, many inhabitants of Marmaris cannot put their heads on their pillow to sleep peacefully while these fires burn,” Ozkan said.
Firefighters with flashlights on their foreheads sat eating and drinking bottled water that locals gathered from neighbouring towns.
Emergency rescue boats stood on standby by the Marmaris shoreline to evacuate anyone should the fires spread and the town be cut off.
“We must be responsible for our land to prevent our future from burning,” said Ozkan, “but the situation is really bad now.”
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