IN PHOTOS: Wildfires Rage on in Drought-hit Turkey

Villagers battling the fires and opposition leaders accused the government of not doing enough to help them, as blazes, fanned by heatwave, burned for sixth day

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TOPSHOT - This photograph shows a forest burning as a massive wildfire engulfed a Mediterranean resort at the Marmaris district of Mugla, on August 1 2021. - At least three people were reported dead on July 29, 2021 and more than 100 injured as firefighters battled blazes engulfing a Mediterranean resort region on Turkey's southern coast. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)
A massive wildfire engulfed a Mediterranean resort at the Marmaris district of Mugla, this week.Credit: Yasin Akgul / AFP

Firefighters using planes and helicopters, and locals with buckets of water, battled wildfires raging for a sixth day near southern resorts in drought-hit Turkey and the government faced fresh criticism of its handling of the disaster.

Seven fires were still burning on Monday, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F), strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.

Huge flames engulfed trees on a hillside near the coastal resort of Marmaris, images filmed by Reuters showed, while drone footage revealed a gray landscape nearby where fires had left smoldering buildings and blackened tree trunks.

While 16 planes and 51 helicopters tackled the blazes across a swathe of southwest Turkey, villagers carrying water containers up a hill to fight a fire near Marmaris said the government was not doing enough to help them.

"We are here as the entire village, from the locals to others. We didn't run or anything, so the government must see this and also not run away. It must send some of its planes here," a woman called Gulhan told Reuters.

A burnt forest on Turkey's southern coast near the town of Manavgat, last week.Credit: AFP
Credit: AFP
Credit: Ilyas Akengin / AFP
A burnt car in front of a burnt house near the town of Manavgat on Turkey's southern coast last week.Credit: AFP

The heatwave exacerbating the fires comes after months of exceptionally dry weather in Turkey's southwest, according to maps issued by meteorological authorities.

Data from the European Forest Fire Information Service showed there have been three times as many fires as usual this year, while the 136,000 hectares burnt were almost three times the area burnt on average in an entire year.

Engin Ozkoc, a senior figure in the main opposition CHP, called on Pakdemirli to resign for failing to adequately prepare.

'Our Turkey is strong'

"You don't deserve that ministry. You didn't foresee this and buy firefighting planes," he said, criticizing the amount of aerial resources available.

The European Union said it had helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes on Sunday. One from Croatia and two from Spain joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

A cow stands by a fire that rages Hisaronu area, Turkey, on Monday.Credit: AP
Credit: Yasin Akgul / AFP
Credit: AFP
Credit: Ilyas Akengin / AFP

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, rejected criticism of the government's handling of the fires and condemned a social media campaign calling for foreign help.

"Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing tall," Altun said on Twitter, describing most information about the fires on social media as "fake news". "All our losses will be compensated for."

Eight people have been killed in the wildfires, but there were no reports of further casualties on Monday.

Credit: Ilyas Akengin / AFP
An aerial photo shows destroyed houses in a village as wildfires continue to rage the forests near the Mediterranean coastal town of Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey, last week.Credit: Suat Metin,AP

Since Wednesday, thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and some tourists have left their hotels, although Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said holidaymakers had returned within hours.

The wildfires are another blow to Turkey's tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bulent Bulbuloglu, head of the South Aegean Hoteliers Association, said 10% of reservations had been cancelled in Bodrum and Marmaris. Others had cut their visits short.

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