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Turkey wildfires: ‘The animals are on fire,’ say devastated farmers as wildfires sweep Turkey

“The animals are on fire,” 56-year-old resident Muzeyyan Kacar told CNN. “Everything will burn. Our land, our animals and our home. What else do we have anyway?

Hundreds of kilometers to the west, in the tourist hotspot of Bodrum, more than 1,000 people were evacuated by boat on Sunday and Saturday to escape the wildfires.

At least eight people have died in more than 100 fires that broke out earlier this week, according to state news agency Anadolu. The flames were fueled by scorching summer temperatures and conditions that experts say have been made worse by climate change.

Seven people were killed in the fires in Manavgat, Antalya province, and the eighth victim died in Marmaris, Anadolu reported. The latest victims include a Turkish-German couple who were found in a house, he said.

Two firefighters died in the flames on Saturday, according to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The ministry said 111 fires had burned across the country since Wednesday, while six fires still burned in three different cities on Sunday.

Evacuation by sea

On Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, more than 1,100 people were evacuated from the tourist resort of Bodrum by sea on Sunday for the second day in a row.

“We helped evacuate 1,140 people from 12 boats,” Orhan Dinc, chairman of the Bodrum Maritime Chamber, told CNN.

“We also carried out a boat evacuation yesterday, but I have never seen anything like it before in this area. This is the first time,” he said.

Dinc said if roads remain open and evacuations continue overland, sea evacuation helps keep roads clear for fire trucks and ambulances.

Bodrum also evacuated 1,100 people using more than 20 boats on Saturday, city mayor Ahmet Aras said. Bodrum is a popular destination for Turkish and foreign tourists.

Plumes of smoke from a forest fire are seen near a residential area in the resort town of Bodrum on Saturday, July 31.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared parts of five provinces of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast “disaster areas” following a helicopter visit to the devastated areas.

“We will continue to take all measures to heal the wounds of our people, compensate for losses and improve opportunities for better than before,” the president added in a tweet on Saturday.

“Gone, gone, let’s go”

The biggest fire, in Manavgat, killed at least three people, according to the Turkish Directorate of Natural Disasters and Emergencies.

In the nearby village of Kacarlar, locals find it difficult to see the houses they have built by hand burn to the ground.

Gulay Kacar, 48, told CNN:

“My father’s house burned down,” said Gulay Kacar, 48. “Gone, gone, here we are,” Kacar said, adding that she “was running to release the animals.”

Namet Atik, a 37-year-old farmer from a nearby village, said he had come to Kacarlar to help. “Whatever this village needs… we are there for them,” he told CNN.

“We bring them water, our cars, our tractors, our saws,” he added. “We are forest villagers. Our livelihood is the forest. If this fire breaks out, there is no turning back.”

About 4,000 people, along with hundreds of emergency vehicles, were deployed by the government to help fight the blazes this week.

At least 77 houses have been damaged in Antalya province and more than 2,000 farm animals have died, Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told reporters on Thursday.

Firefighters try to bring the blaze under control in the village of Kirli near the town of Manavgat in Antalya province early Friday, July 30.
A helicopter fights forest fires in the village of Kacarlar, near the Mediterranean coastal town of Manavgat, on Saturday, July 31.

Scorching temperatures

Hot and dry weather conditions made the fires worse, Pakdemirli said Thursday. He added that temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), less than 14% humidity and winds of around 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) helped spread the flames.

Hikmet Ozturk, a forestry expert from the Turkish Foundation for Soil Erosion Control, a non-governmental organization that works to protect forests, told CNN that while 95% of fires in Turkey are caused by people, the spread of fires is aggravated by climate change.

The area of ​​the fires is in the Mediterranean basin, which is one of the most sensitive to risks from climate change, Ozturk said. “Typical summer weather conditions for the region are hot and dry, which means the risk of fire is already high, and climate change is increasing that risk,” he said.

The forest fires come as parts of western Europe have faced severe flooding in recent weeks. For decades, scientists have warned that climate change will make extreme weather events, including heavy rains and deadly floods, more likely.

CNN’s Gul Tuysuz and Arwa Damon reported from Turkey. Sheena McKenzie wrote in London. CNN’s Isil Sariyuce and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.

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