Turkey battles wildfires near Datça, Çeşme tourist resorts

Firefighters near Turkey’s southwestern resort of Datça and the town of Çeşme on the western coast have been battling blazes that broke out on Wednesday.

Efforts to put out the wildfires in Datça continue, while the blaze in Çeşme has been brought under control. The fire in Datça was likely caused by a faulty electrical transformer, said Agriculture and Forestry Minister Vahit Kirişçi.

A series of blazes that broke out in Turkey in July last year destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of forest in its Mediterranean and Aegean provinces, in what became the country’s worst wildfires on record. The blazes killed eight people and burned down a total of 83,810 hectares (207,099 acres) of forest, according to Gebze Technical University researchers.

Firefighters are attempting to put out the fires in Datça from the air and ground. They have spread due to windy conditions, Kirişçi said.

Around 500 hectares of forest has been destroyed and some 2,400 people have been evacuated from affected areas, he said. Thirty aircraft, including 10 planes and 20 helicopters, were assisting with firefighting efforts, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry said.

 

Last year, the government came under severe public criticism for its perceived failure to control fires and for failing to purchase and maintain fire-fighting planes and helicopters. Another severe outbreak could further hurt its popularity, which has already dented by surging inflation and a weak lira. The country is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by June next year.

The fire in Çeşme, like Datça, a popular destination for foreign and local tourists, was brought under control early on Thursday, said Tunç Soyer, the mayor of the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. The fire had spread rapidly, including into residential areas, and had caused great damage, Soyer said on social media.

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