Panicked tourists in Turkey have hurried to the seashore to wait for rescue boats after being told to evacuate some hotels in the Aegean resort of Bodrum due to the dangers posed by nearby wildfires.
Coast guard units were leading the operation on Saturday and authorities asked private boats and yachts to assist in evacuation efforts from the sea as new wildfires erupted.
The death toll from wildfires raging in Turkey’s Mediterranean towns rose to six on Saturday after two forest workers were killed, the country’s health minister said.
Fires across Turkey since Wednesday have burned down forests and some settlements, encroaching on villages and tourist destinations and forcing people to evacuate.
The minister of agriculture and forestry, Bekir Pakdemirli, said Saturday that 88 of the 98 fires that broke out amid strong winds and scorching heat have been brought under control. Neighbourhoods affected by the fire in five provinces were declared disaster zones by Turkey’s emergency and disaster authority.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area on Saturday, inspecting the damage from a helicopter.
Speaking from the town of Manavgat, Erdogan announced that the Turkish government would cover the rents for people affected by the fire and rebuild their homes. He said taxes, social security and credit payments would be postponed for those affected and small businesses would be offered credit with zero interest.
“We cannot do anything beyond wishing the mercy of God for the lives we have lost but we can replace everything that was burned,” he said.
Erdogan said the number of planes fighting the fires had been increased from six to 13, including planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and that thousands of Turkish personnel as well as dozens of helicopters and drones were assisting the firefighting efforts.
At least five people have died from the fires in Manavgat and one died in Marmaris. Both towns are located on the Mediterranean and are tourist destinations.
In southern Hatay province, flames jumped into populated areas but were later apparently brought under control.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months. A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean.