Turkey has been witnessing wildfires that have swept the southern coast, causing the death of at least four people as of July 30 and injuring roughly 200 others. Firefighters have been battling the flames for a third day with the fires burning through tourist regions, forcing thousands of holidaymakers to be evacuated from their hotels by a flotilla of boats.
The fires started on Wednesday in Manavgat, a town in the southern province of Antalya. By Friday there were fires in more than 70 other spots across the country, according to the Turkish forestry directorate.
Firefighters on the ground and in helicopters had to extinguish large fires that killed three people in Manavgat and a fourth in Marmaris, another popular holiday resort. Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said that 27 neighbourhoods have been evacuated.
President Tayyip Erdogan informed that at least 5 planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 1,080 firefighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts at 1,140 sites. The Istanbul governor’s office banned entry to forest areas until the end of August as a precaution against fires.
Extreme Weathers Plague The World
According to the satellite data passed on to the Guardian, the heat intensity of the wildfires in Turkey on Thursday, was at least four times higher than anything on record for the nation. Conditions at the sites of countless blazes have been tinder dry. Turkey’s 60-year temperature record was broken the previous week when Cizre, a town in the south-east, registered 49.1ºC.
The blazes are part of a broader pattern of wildfires afflicting the Mediterranean this summer, with areas in Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Italy and Cyprus also battling fast-moving fires. Four have been killed by the fires in Cyprus while fires in Lebanon this week killed at least one firefighter and forced some residents to flee.
After deadly heat waves in the Americas, floods in Europe and China, and fires in Siberia, the scenes of destruction in Turkey have added to concerns about the growing ferocity of extreme weathers that are linked to changes in the climate resulting from global warming.
The mayor of Antalya, Muhittin Böcek said that one in four neighbourhoods in Manavgat had to be evacuated. The community is heavily dependent on farming and raising livestock. Böcek said that most residents were still not allowed to return home as the fires were not under control.
Only a few domestic reports mentioned climate trends as the reason behind the heightened dangers of fire in Turkey and elsewhere. Government ministers have also speculated that arson attacks by the Kurdish separatist movement – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – might be responsible for the fires, but have provided no evidence.
Climate scientists have long predicted that the Mediterranean will be hit hard by rising temperatures and that there will be changes in rainfall patterns due to humans’ carbon-intensive activities.
The growing number of wildfires indicate a troubling feedback loop. The rising temperature will create hotter, drier conditions that fuel increasingly frequent and devastating fires that, in turn, release greenhouse gases driving further warming.
Cagatay Tavsanoglu, a biology professor specialising in fire ecology at the Hacettepe University in Ankara said that fires in the Mediterranean basin are an annual occurrence, but the extent of the blazes this year should serve as a warning. “Many fires could not be put out, and with the influence of dry winds, burning happened too fast,” Tavsanoglu said. He added, “It is just the first indication of what climate change would do to the Mediterranean region in the future.”