The victims were in Turkey, where intense forest fires since July 28 have reduced large parts of the Mediterranean coast to ashes. It concerns more than two hundred fires, mainly in the south and west of the country. Thousands of people were evacuated, including many tourists who were taken to safety by boat.
In dozens of places the fires have not yet been brought under control. High winds and a lack of helicopters and firefighting planes allowed the fire to spread easily. On Thursday, the Turkish Coast Guard evacuated hundreds of civilians who live near a burning power plant in the southwestern province of Mugla.
under the hashtag #Pray for Turkey in a #Turkey is burning (Turkey is burning) Pictures and videos of the disaster are circulating on social media. Pictures show how the fire threatens to engulf Turkish villages and seaside resorts, while ordinary citizens use water buckets or sand shovels to put out the flames.
Many Turks are angry with President Erdogan for saying he will do little to fight the fires. According to them, the authorities are monitoring local residents as they battle the fire. Erdogan acknowledged last week that the government had no firefighting planes, but insisted the situation was “under control”.
Mayors in affected areas said they were unable to reach the authorities and used social media in desperation to help. “We hope that the state takes responsibility and saves people from this suffering,” the mayor of Milas said in a video. In a similar video, the mayor of Bodrum asked the government to accept foreign aid. “Please listen to us, we desperately need help.”
Turkish residents are also requesting international assistance via Twitter. A post titled “Help Turkey” has been published a lot. Presidential spokesman Fahrettin Altun denounced the campaign, tweeting that the aid was not necessary: ”Turkey is strong.” According to the public prosecutor, who opened an investigation into the reports, some social media accounts are trying to create “panic, fear and anxiety” and humiliate the Turkish government.
In the end, the authorities gave up. So far, firefighting planes and helicopters from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Croatia, Spain and Ukraine have come to the rescue. Gradually it becomes clear the extent of the damage. More than 1,000 families have lost their homes, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said at a press conference on Thursday. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, nearly 160,000 hectares of forest have already been burned this year, four times the average in one year.
In Greece, forest fires threaten the capital, Athens. Hundreds of people were evacuated on Friday morning. According to Greek media, it was 20 kilometers from the center. The fire has already engulfed dozens of homes in villages and suburbs on the north side of the city. The situation appeared to be under control on Thursday, but westerly winds fanned the flames again later. Emergency services went door to door to warn everyone.
Temperatures during the heatwave, the worst in Greece since 1987, rose to 45 degrees this week. According to the authorities, at least 86 new fires broke out in dry nature on Thursday, in addition to the 100 fires that have already swept the country. On Thursday, the government decided to increase the military’s commitment in a frantic effort to control the fires.
In the Peloponnese, the fire brigade defends with all its might ancient Olympia, the place on the peninsula where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC. Local authorities dug trenches around the archaeological remains to keep the flames out. 52 fire engines, four helicopters and two planes have also been deployed to fight the fires.
On Thursday, Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoides thanked the “brave” firefighters for their efforts to protect the UNESCO World Heritage site. “The conditions are exceptional and difficult, but we will fight all day,” he said.
Italy and Albania also suffer from wildfires that are difficult to control. After months of drought, the intense heat wave, affecting southeastern Europe, lasted for ten days.
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