Wildfires in Turkey and Lebanon have killed at least 11 people, with the death toll expected to rise. The Turkish government has blamed a nearby forest fire for starting several other blazes that spread across thousands of hectares of land on Monday night.
In neighboring Lebanon, three people died when their car was engulfed by flames near Beirut’s airport. A fourth person is missing after his vehicle caught fire while driving through the city of Tyre. There are fears more deaths could be reported from the country’s worst wildfires since 2006.
The flames were fanned by strong winds after a heatwave hit much of Europe last week. In some areas, temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year. More than 100 firefighters are battling blazes across three provinces. At least one person was injured when he fell from his roof while trying to put out a fire near Ankara.
The Turkish government has been accused by the European Commission and others of failing to protect its citizens from forest fires. The EU’s executive body said on Tuesday that Turkey had failed to meet a key target for reducing emissions in 2020 as it continued to allow illegal logging and slash-and-burn practices.
It also criticized Ankara over what it called “a lack of transparency” about how much land was being cleared illegally across Europe’s largest economy. In addition, the commission said Turkey did not provide enough information about where wood products were coming from or who they were going to.
Turkey fires: Blazes threaten Marmaris and other coastal resorts
The Turkish government has declared a state of emergency in the country’s south-eastern provinces, following deadly wildfires that have destroyed more than 1.5 million hectares of land since July 15. The blazes are threatening to engulf some of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations including Antalya, Bodrum and Alanya on its Mediterranean coast.
Unless rain falls soon, many towns will face an evacuation order. Turkish authorities say there are currently around 300 active fires burning throughout the country.
According to Turkish agriculture and forestry minister Bekir Pakdemirli, a total of 53 forest fires were recorded on Wednesday and Thursday in the Mediterranean and southern Aegean regions.
The number of fire incidents has increased by more than 50 percent compared with last year’s figures for this period. The ministry said that most of these fires occurred in forests located near urban areas or along roadsides.
Pakdemirli added that there was no information about any casualties caused by the fires. He also noted that Turkey had been experiencing an increase in forest fires since July due to dry weather conditions.
Forest fire rages in the Manavgat region
The forest fires that have been raging for days across Turkey’s Black Sea province of Manavgat are now threatening to spread into neighboring provinces. The Turkey Fire flames, which started on July 15 and were first reported by local media outlets as being caused by a lightning strike, have since engulfed an area larger than Istanbul.
Manavgat Governor Mehmet Ali Yalçınkara told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the situation remained under control but warned that if the wind changed direction, the wildfire could quickly turn into a major disaster.
Yalçınkora said that the provincial governorate would continue working closely with all relevant institutions to ensure safety measures are taken. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Sunday that he planned to visit the affected areas within 24 hours. However, his office later clarified that the prime minister would travel to the region only after receiving approval from President Abdullah Gul.
Erdogan visited the scene of one of the worst Turkey fires on Saturday, meeting firefighters and residents whose homes were damaged during the inferno.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, although some forest fires have been blamed on arson.
In August 2010 a wildfire broke out near Kırklareli, causing major damage to forests and houses. The fire was caused by an illegal campfire that spread rapidly due to strong winds. It burned over, destroying more than 100 homes and killing at least one person.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned here that the main reason why people start wildfires is that they want to clear their land so that they can plant trees and crops. This is not done intentionally; rather, it happens when someone accidentally starts a small fire while trying to burn off weeds or grasses.
In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, another factor contributing to the occurrence of forest fires is climate change. As global temperatures rise, droughts become longer and hotter summers occur earlier each year.