ISTANBUL - Thousands of Turkish firefighters are battling for a fifth day against raging fires that are threatening some of Turkey's main tourist resorts. Six people have already died in the fires.
A child cries fire, fire, as a family drives through the night trying to escape the surrounding inferno in Turkey's Marmaris region. The video has gone viral in Turkey.
Firefighters backed by helicopters are battling raging fires across Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean regions, home to some of Europe's most prominent tourist resorts. Record high temperatures and powerful dry winds are hampering their efforts. Authorities have issued evacuation orders for tourists in some resorts. One of the worst-affected areas is Turkey's Bodrum resort. Bodrum resident Melis Birder spoke to VOA Sunday.
"I feel terrible; we are under stress because it's very hot here," said Birder. "The one that started in Muscular on the airport road in Bodrum is still spreading; the others have been put down. As the wind is picking up, it's getting more dangerous again. Some people are very stressed, very sad. On the other hand, I was hearing party music from the shore last night."
The fires are dealing a hammer blow to Turkey's vital tourism industry, still trying to recover from losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many farmers, too, have been devastated by the fires. This farmer, who didn't want to be identified, in Turkey's Manavgat region, is traumatized by the experience.
He says, "I don't care if it's a car or house burned but look at these animals. They lost their lives; they are my life, these were my beauties, these were my hope," he adds, "but a calf was born in all this chaos. I took it from the fire. My children wrapped them in their arms. But its mother died."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saturday in a 30-vehicle convoy, visited some of the worst-hit resorts. He declared the region a disaster zone, promising compensation for those who have suffered losses. Authorities are investigating whether some of the more than 100 fires could be arson, and Erdogan gave a chilling warning to any perpetrator.
He says, "If you rip our heart out, I swear, we will rip your heart out; if we find such a connection - there are already some indications - we will do whatever it takes."
The government is facing growing criticism that the country's fleet of firefighting planes are out of action, relying instead on three rented Russian planes. Erdogan said that more planes had arrived, and more were on the way, from neighboring Ukraine, Russia, and Azerbaijan. Authorities say that most of the more than 100 fires are under control. But some resorts remain under threat, and with temperatures forecast to soar to new record levels in coming days, the fight appears far from over.