Forest fires  choking Turkey’s South

Forest fires spread to a vast area in southern Turkish provinces on Thursday, from the summer getaway of Antalya to Adana and Mersin.  New ones are being reported in Inner Anatolian cities of Kutahya  and Kayseri as of now. Fires started on Wednesday, threatening residential areas. Their almost consecutive nature triggered concerns that they might be the result of a string of arson attacks.


The worst fire was in Manavgat, a town in Antalya province which is popular among holidaymakers. It erupted on Wednesday noon in four different spots of the town surrounded by forests. It did not reach to town center but affected the villages near it. Eighteen villages and neighborhoods were evacuated, while authorities announced that 62 people were hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation. Three people were killed in the fire and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) announced on Thursday that 122 people were “affected” by the fire while 58 were still hospitalized.


Firefighters of Antalya, accompanied by crews arriving from nearby cities, joined extinguishing efforts while helicopters and planes dumped fire retardant on burning buildings and fields in and around Manavgat. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that “all necessary support will be given to our citizens who have suffered from the fire,” adding an investigation had been launched into the cause. Antalya Metropolitan Mayor Muhittin Böcek had implied earlier that the fires were “suspicious” as they started at four different locations at the same time.


Fahrettin Altun, Turkish Presidency’s Communications Director, said on Thursday that authorities launched “comprehensive investigations” into the causes of the fires. “Those who are responsible will be held accountable for these attacks against nature and our forests,” he said in a tweet.


Locals and firefighters spray water on a burning house, in Manavgat, Antalya, southern Turkey, July 29, 2021. (AA Photo)

Locals and firefighters spray water on a burning house, in Manavgat, Antalya, southern Turkey, July 29, 2021. (AA Photo)

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli, who visited areas ravaged by fire, told reporters on Thursday morning that the fire was largely under control. However, another fire broke out in neighboring Akseki town on Wednesday night and now threatens Manavgat after it spread to the town due to winds. Pakdemirli announced an 82-year-old individual was killed in the Akseki fire. Later on Thursday, Pakdemirli updated the number to three, with two more deaths in Değirmenli, a rural neighborhood. The new fire led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Akseki and the evacuation of an unknown number of residences in five neighborhoods of Manavgat.


Commentary:  The year of disasters, natural and human-made


While Turkey experiences her fair share of forest fire, as a result of global warming, the number of simultaneous fires does raise specter of arson.  It is unclear who or which entities may be responsible.  However, the impact is very clear:  Tourism may suffer yet another blow.


This is not the only disaster Turkey is facing. Turkey’s new coronavirus cases jumped to 22,291 on Wednesday, the highest since early May, according to health ministry data that also showed the daily death toll reached a six-week high of 76 people.


The government is planning to introduce social mobility restrictions and bans on attending public venues for vaccine-avoiders. Yet, according to a recent Ipsos poll  71% of those who are aware of the Delta variant fear new lockdowns in the last quarter of the year. This rate was only 61% in the same poll taken before Eid al Adha.


A devastating drought, called “the worst in a century” is widely expected to cut grain and vegetable harvests this summer, adding to Turkey’s 20% per annum food inflation woes, and further impoverishing the already hard-put farming community.


Finally, hundreds of Afghans are reported to cross into eastern Turkey from Iran, after a rise in violence in their own country as the United States and its NATO allies withdraw and Taliban fighters seize territory.  After absorbing close to 4 mn Syrian refugees, the people of Turkey are not happy about the new guests. The migrants are largely from lower classes, with few marketable skills and may be carrying new variants of Covid-19.


Turkish military is now sending reinforcements to the Iran border to check the flow of refugees.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.