Turkey battles fire near tourist hubs


ANKARA — Strong winds on Sunday hampered around 1,300 firefighters battling to control a major fire sweeping through woodlands on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, officials said.

Local governor Alaaddin Yuksel said the blaze in the province of Antalya had largely been brought under control, but at least one new fire broke in the region later in the day.

“The fire is continuing while being generally brought under control,” Yuksel was quoted as saying by Anatolia.

Antalya, Turkey’s main tourist destination, attracts about seven million foreign tourists every year and is dotted with holiday resorts and prominent historical sites.

A new fire broke out Sunday near Manavgat, which is home to several large resorts, the environment ministry said, adding that firefighting helicopters and airplanes were helping the efforts there.

Two villages — Cardak and Karabucak — were evacuated as a precaution against the advancing flames, it said.

The wind also fanned a fresh blaze in mountains near Olympos, a picturesque beach popular with young people, which had been brought under control Saturday, Anatolia reported, adding that settlements in the area were not endangered.

“The weather was on our side last night, but the wind began blowing again this morning. Still, we aim to bring the fire under control today,” the deputy head of Antalya’s forestry department, Mustafa Kurtulmuslu, told Anatolia.

The fire broke out Thursday and grew out of control the following day, claiming the life of a villager and leaving dozens homeless. A second man remains unaccounted for.

It destroyed part of the village of Karatas, burning down about 60 houses.

The blaze, which ravaged about 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of woodlands between the towns of Serik and Manavgat, began after winds reaching up to 70 kilometres per hour (43 miles per hour) tore down power lines, officials believe.

Devastated villagers complained of a slow government response, saying they were left alone to fight flames which engulfed their homes, barns, greenhouses and fields.

There were no reports of danger to holiday villages.

Forest fires are common in Turkey as well as other Mediterranean countries during hot and arid summer months, sparked mostly by negligent residents.

In 2006, a radical Kurdish separatist group claimed responsibility for a series of fires in southern and western Turkey.