Turkey’s wildfires largely under control, says Erdogan


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A wind-driven wildfire raging near a popular resort town in southwestern Turkey has been largely brought under control, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

The fire broke out on Tuesday in the Bordubet region, near Marmaris on the Aegean coast, and quickly spread, blackening areas of pine forest and displacing hundreds of people from their homes.

After an inspection of the area, Erdogan told reporters that an estimated 4,000 hectares (nearly 9,900 acres) of forest were affected by the fire. Reforestation efforts would begin as soon as possible, he said.

“We saw a (fire) in a small area, but otherwise, thank goodness, it has been largely brought under control,” he told reporters.

More than 45 people were affected by the fire and 19 of them were taken to hospitals for treatment, Erdogan said.

“We are especially pleased that there were no deaths and that no one was reported missing,” he said.

Authorities on Thursday arrested a 34-year-old man who allegedly confessed to setting the fire after a dispute with relatives, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

Erdogan said he was in favor of harsh sentences for people convicted of lighting wildfires, adding that the country should also start a debate on whether or not to reinstate the death penalty.

More than 2,500 firefighters and 41 waterdrop aircraft and helicopters were deployed to fight the blaze. On Friday, a plane from Azerbaijan and three helicopters from Qatar joined forces.

More than 400 people have been evacuated from their homes as a precaution, Turkish disaster relief agency AFAD said.

Ongoing drought in several Mediterranean countries, a heat wave that hit northern Germany last week and high fuel costs for planes needed to fight forest fires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.

Last summer, fires fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in the Mediterranean and Aegean region of Turkey, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and numerous animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.

The government has been criticized for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting aircraft.