Turkey — Fire-fighters have brought a major forest fire under control in all but one area after it engulfed 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of woodland in Turkey’s tourism heartland, the local governor said on Sunday.
One person has died and another is missing in the blaze in Antalya province, which has destroyed 60 houses, dozens of farming buildings and livestock. The governor described it as the worst forest fire faced by Turkey in recent years.
It has also endangered historical sites in the hills above the baking hot Mediterranean coastline, including the ancient Greek amphitheatre in Aspendos, 37 km (23 miles) from the coastal resort of Side.
More than 2,000 people have been involved in tackling the fire, now in its fourth day, backed up by more than a dozen aircraft which have sought to douse the flames engulfing the region’s woodland.
“Thanks to the self-sacrificing work of our forestry authorities the fire has generally speaking being brought under control, (although) it is still continuing,” Antalya Governor Alaaddin Yuksel told a televised news conference.
He elaborated by saying fires were still continuing in an area around the village of Karabucak.
“This fire is the most significant one that we have faced on Anatolian lands in recent years,” he added.
In nearby Sagirin where the fire continued, a few kilometres (miles) from Aspendos, fire-fighters directed powerful hose jets of water at the flames. Hot weather and little rain has made the woodland vulnerable to outbreaks of fire.
Aircraft continued to tackle the blaze from above despite thick clouds of smoke which obscured the hillsides. A bulldozer cut a path through woodland nearby to prevent the fire from spreading.
HAMPERED BY WINDS
Mustafa Kurtulmuslu, deputy general manager of Turkey’s forestry directorate, said earlier that strong winds were hampering fire-fighting efforts.
“The weather was in our favour last night but the wind flared up again this morning. Despite this we will have the fire totally under control today,” he said.
The winds were expected to subside by early evening, when humidity levels were also forecasted to rise.
Six villages were evacuated as a result of the blaze in the Manavgat and Serik districts. Officials have said the state will pay compensation for those affected by the fire.
Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroglu said on Saturday officials thought the blaze was sparked by the snapping of power lines. However, state power officials said this was not possible, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.
Antalya has some of the richest remains of Greek civilisation in Turkey and is the nation’s top tourist destination receiving about 7 million tourists each year, mostly during the summer period.