ISTANBUL – Tourists in a panic in Turkey hurried on Saturday to wait for rescue boats after they were told to evacuate some hotels in the Aegean resort of Bodrum due to the dangers posed by nearby fires, Turkish media reported.
Coast Guard units conducted the operation, and authorities asked private boats and yachts to help evacuate from the sea as new fires broke out. The video shows piles of smoke and fire enveloping a hill near the seashore.
The death toll from wildfires in Turkish Mediterranean cities rose to six on Saturday after two forest workers were killed, the country’s health minister said. Fires across Turkey since Wednesday have burned forests and some settlements, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations and forcing people to evacuate.
Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported that more than 100 Russian tourists had been evacuated from Bodrum and moved to new hotels.
In one video of a fire in Bodrum taken from the sea, the man assisting in the evacuation was stunned by the speed of the fire, saying “this is unbelievable, simply unbelievable. How did this fire come (here) so fast in 5 minutes? “He was not named in the video.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said on Saturday that 91 of the 101 fires that broke out amid strong winds and scorching heat have been brought under control. Fourth affected by the fire in five provinces have been declared disaster zones.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited some affected areas on Saturday to inspect the damage caused by the helicopter.
Speaking from the city of Manavgat, Erdogan announced that the Turkish government would cover rents for people affected by the fire and rebuild their homes. He said that taxes, social insurance and payments on loans will be postponed for the endangered, and small companies will be offered an interest-free loan.
“We can do nothing but desire God’s grace for the lives we have lost, but we can replace everything that has been burned,” he said.
Erdogan said the number of planes fighting the fire had increased from six to 13, including planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and that thousands of Turkish personnel, as well as dozens of helicopters and drones, were helping the firefighting effort.
In a speech from Marmaris on Saturday night, Erdogan said one of the fires there was set on fire by children and that another investigation was underway.
At least five people were killed in fires in Manavgat, and one was killed in Marmaris. Both cities are Mediterranean tourist destinations. Tourism is an important source of revenue for Turkey, and business owners hoped this summer would be much better than last year, when pandemic travel restrictions caused a drop in tourism.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 400 people affected by the Manavgat fires were treated in hospitals and released, while 10 others were still hospitalized for fire injuries. In Marmaris, 159 people were treated at the hospital and one person is still on burn treatment.
In the southern province of Hatay, the flames jumped into populated areas, but were later apparently brought under control.
Fires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the dry summer months.
Meanwhile, a heat wave across southern Europe, supplied with hot air from Africa, has led to fires across the Mediterranean, including Italy and Greece.
Firefighters on the Italian island of Sicily on Saturday fought dozens of fires caused by high temperatures, which is why the governor of the region asked for help from Rome. About 150 people trapped in two coastal areas in the city of Catania were evacuated late Friday by sea, where they were picked up by rubber dinghies and transferred to Coast Guard ships.
In western Greece, a fire that broke out on Saturday forced the evacuation of four villages and people on the beach by the Fire Service, the Coast Guard and private boats.
The fire occurred in a mountain forest 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Patras, the third largest city in Greece, Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said late Saturday. With the help of a strong wind, the fire rushed down the slope and threatened the coastal villages.
The Civil Protection Agency sent text messages to residents of four villages – two in the mountains and two by the sea – for evacuation. Local media reported that some villagers refused to leave and tried to suffocate the fire with garden hoses.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby Southeast European countries are expected to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) in many cities on Monday.
Contributions were made by Robert Badendieck in Istanbul, Colleen Barry in Milan and Demetris Nellas in Athens.
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