Turkish authorities investigate after wildfires leave three dead

Turkish authorities have begun investigating the cause of a string of forest fires in Turkey’s Mediterranean and southern Aegean regions.

A wildfire that broke out on Wednesday in Manavgat, in Antalya province, and was fanned by strong winds and scorching temperatures, was largely contained, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.

But another fire that started on Thursday and swept through the district of Akseki, 30 miles north, kept firefighters engaged.

Three people were killed in those fires, and authorities evacuated nearly 20 neighbourhoods or villages.

The Antalya region is a popular vacation destination for tourists from Russia and other parts of Europe.

Fires also broke out on Thursday in 16 other locations, including in the Icmeler region, close to the resort of Marmaris, 200 miles west of Antalya, that briefly threatened holiday homes and hotels.

An aerial photo shows destroyed houses. Credit: Suat Metin/IHA via AP

A hotel in the Aegean beach resort of Guvercinlik, near the town of Bodrum, was also evacuated, Mr Pakdemirli said.

Mehmet Oktay, the mayor of Marmaris, told NTV television he could not rule out “sabotage” for the fire there, while Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidential communications director, said “comprehensive investigations were … launched into the cause of the fires”.

“Those responsible will have to account for the attacks against nature and forests,” Mr Altun said Twitter.

Mr Pakdemirli said a total of 53 forest fires were reported in the country on Wednesday and Thursday, but that most of them had been brought under control.

Three planes, 38 helicopters and some 4,000 firefighters were deployed to battle the blazes, he said.

The dead in the fires in Antalya included an 82-year-old man in Akseki’s Kepezbeleni neighbourhood, where 80% of the houses were incinerated, the district’s governor, Volkan Hulur, told Anadolu.

Smoke rises from a forest fire in the Icmeler area, near Marmaris, Turkey Credit: Patrizia Under/AP

The Turkish government’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said in addition to the three dead, at least 112 people were affected by the fires, including 58 who were admitted to hospital, mostly for smoke inhalation.

Authorities also rescued 10 people stranded at a restaurant near Akseki.

Mr Pakdemirli said more than 1,000 farm animals perished while 1,500 acres of agricultural land and 120 acres of agricultural glasshouses were destroyed in Manavgat.

He said 10 intubated intensive care patients at Manavgat’s state hospital were transferred to other hospitals as a precaution.

Patrizia Under, who was on holiday in the Icmerler area, said she was bathing in the sea with friends when she noticed a fire blazing on a mountainside behind a residential area that engulfed the air with smoke.

“We got out of the sea and got into our car and left,” she said by telephone, as she waited for authorities to allow people to return to their homes.