Turkey Is Next as Wildfires Afflict Mediterranean Countries

Turkey Is Next as Wildfires Afflict Mediterranean Countries
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Turkey Is Next as Wildfires Afflict Mediterranean Countries

Turkey Is Next as Wildfires Afflict Mediterranean Countries

Firefighters in Turkey struggled to contain dozens of wildfires that raged on a third day on Friday, as rapidly spreading fires forced popular resorts and dozens of rural areas along the Mediterranean coast to be evacuated.

The fires, which authorities say may have been started by arson or human negligence, killed at least four people and injured around 200 others.

As tourists were forced to flee hotels, some on boats as the flames neared, people in rural areas watched fires burn their homes, kill their livestock and destroy their businesses.

“Our lungs are burning, our future is burning,” Muhittin Bocek, mayor of resort town Antalya, said in a telephone interview from the ravaged town of Manavgat, some 80 kilometers east of the coast.

The fires are part of a larger pattern of forest fires plaguing the Mediterranean this summer, with areas in Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Italy and Cyprus also battling rapidly growing fires.

They are also the latest in a series of extreme weather events around the planet – from deadly floods in Europe and China to raging fires in the United States, Canada and Siberia – which scientists say are linked to climate change resulting from global warming. .

Cagatay Tavsanoglu, a biology professor specializing in fire ecology at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, said the fires in the Mediterranean basin are an annual event, but the extent of the fires this year should serve as a Warning.

“Many fires could not be extinguished, and with the influence of dry winds, the fires occurred too quickly,” Tavsanoglu said. “These are just the first indications of what climate change would do to the Mediterranean region in the future.”

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According to models that show an increase in global temperature of three degrees Celsius (or an additional 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the upper bound of the forecast, the average area that burns each year in southern Europe would double, according to an article. research published in Nature in 2018..

And even if warming remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target of the Paris climate accords, 40% more land could burn, the researchers warned.

Cyprus suffered one of its worst fires in decades this summer, killing at least four people. Greek authorities evacuated areas north of Athens this week as forest fires threatened homes near the capital. And in Italy, the island of Sardinia this month faced “an unprecedented disaster”, authorities in the region said.

In Lebanon, where the state has practically ceased to function and authorities have taken virtually no action to prevent the fires this summer, a teenager died this week as the fires spread through the north of the country and into Syria. .

In the city of Akkar, videos shared online showed dystopian scenes of the fires spreading through the forests on Wednesday. Firefighters, the Lebanese army, civil protection officers and volunteers struggled to contain them.

The fires have exacerbated the suffering of many people in Lebanon living with daily shortages of fuel and medicine, countless power cuts and the aftermath of an unprecedented financial crisis.

More than 100 municipalities face high risk of forest fires, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute said this week.

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In Turkey, fires broke out in Manavgat, a city in the southern province of Antalya on Wednesday. On Friday there were fires in more than 70 other places across the country, the Turkish forestry directorate said.

Some of the fires have been brought under control, but three people have died in Manavgat and a fourth in Marmaris, another popular holiday resort.

The fires also spread to the holiday destination of Bodrum, where at least two hotels were evacuated.

Turkish authorities are still investigating the cause of the fires, but the government’s communications director Fahrettin Altun on Thursday called them an “attack”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said law enforcement and intelligence officials were investigating the arson allegations. “It’s not something you can ignore,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Friday. “Because it’s almost the same time, in different places. “

Turkey has deployed some 4,000 firefighters, hundreds of vehicles and three planes to fight the fires, according to Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli.

But for some residents, the response has been slow and inadequate.

“Does the Turkish Republic only have three planes? a resident of Manavgat shouted to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as he visited the city on Thursday evening.

Mr Cavusoglu spoke against the backdrop of a delighted landscape, and television footage from earlier in the day showed entire neighborhoods left empty and smoldering, full of charred houses under orange skies.

Mr Bocek, the mayor of Antalya, said that one in four areas of Manavgat had to be evacuated.

In a community heavily dependent on agriculture and ranching, Mr Bocek said most residents were still not allowed to return to their homes as the fires were not under control.

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With tensions high, a crowd attacked two people on Thursday, accusing them of starting the fires, according to Turkish media. When military police intervened to protect the couple, a mob attempted to retake them, but were unsuccessful.

While anger boiled in some places, in others there was no time to think about who to blame.

“When the flames fell on us, we were only able to save the cow,” Nuray Canbolat, a resident of Kozan district in the southern province of Adana, said in a TV interview with the state news agency. Anadolu. “We just saved our lives.”

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