People across Turkey are looking for answers as to how summer wildfires got so desperately out of control, after seven straight days of unusually ferocious fires that continue to blaze throughout the south and west of the country, The Guardian reports.
Eight people, including two firefighters, have died in the wildfires that have engulfed large parts of Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline since last week and destroyed huge swathes of pine forest and agricultural land. While 137 fires in more than 30 provinces have been extinguished, at least nine are still burning, and more than 10,000 people have yet to return to damaged homes, resorts and hotels evacuated in the middle of the tourism season.
Strong winds, low humidity and scorching temperatures – the weather conditions that helped the fires spread – are likely to continue into next week, in what is widely feared may become increasingly normal for the region as the consequences of the climate crisis become impossible to ignore. The heat intensity of the wildfires is four times higher than anything on record for Turkey, according to satellite data shared with the Guardian last week.
Wildfires have also broken out in other parts of the Mediterranean basin, including Lebanon, Greece, Spain and Italy, as hot air from north Africa raises temperatures to more than 40C (104F).
In Turkey, however, where the fires have consumed 95,000 hectares (234,650 acres) compared with an average of 13,516 hectares by this point of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has faced accusations of mismanagement and unpreparedness after admitting the country has no serviceable firefighting planes.
“We are living in hell and we’re not sure what to do now,” said Ahmet Aras, the mayor of Bodrum, a coastal tourist spot, in a video posted to social media.
“It is impossible to intervene here from the land … There can only be an aircraft intervention here, but it’s too late now,” he said as thick clouds of smoke blocked out the blue sky behind him.
Water-dropping aircraft from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran have come to Turkey’s aid, and while Ankara initially appeared unwilling to accept assistance from western nations, the EU on Monday deployed soldiers and several planes to help. On Tuesday, after social media pressure, the police force also finally started using water cannon – more often used in the increasingly authoritarian country to break up peaceful protests – to extinguish the fires.
Meanwhile, locals have filled everything from household buckets to commercial cement mixers with water to try to fight the fires themselves. In many quarters, the response from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), which is already slipping in the polls because of its mishandling of Turkey’s economic woes, is seen as out of touch.