ANKARA, Turkey (TUSEN) — Water-dropping planes from Azerbaijan and Qatar joined the fight Friday against a wind-fuelled wildfire that burned for a fourth day near a popular southeastern resort town. western Turkey.
Turkey’s forestry minister, meanwhile, said the blaze may be close to being brought under control, but the wind still posed a risk.
The blaze broke out in the Bordubet area near Marmaris on the Aegean coast on Tuesday and spread rapidly, blackening swaths of pine forest and driving hundreds of people from their homes.
At least 29 people were affected by the fire and 12 of them were taken to hospitals for treatment, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. Two people remain hospitalized, he said.
“The distress is, to a large extent, over,” Vahit Kirisci, the minister of agriculture and forestry, told reporters, warning that the wind remains a threat.
Authorities on Thursday arrested a 34-year-old man who allegedly confessed to starting the fire following an argument with family members, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
More than 2,500 firefighters and 41 water-dropping planes and helicopters were deployed to fight the blaze. On Friday, a plane from Azerbaijan and three helicopters from Qatar joined their efforts.
More than 400 people were evacuated from their homes as a precautionary measure, Turkey’s disaster management agency AFAD said. About 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres) of forest are affected, Kirisci said.
Prolonged drought conditions in several Mediterranean countries, a heatwave last week that reached northern Germany and high fuel costs for aircraft needed to fight forest fires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.
Last summer, fires fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which have killed at least eight people and countless animals, have been described as the worst in Turkey’s history.
The government has been criticized for its inadequate response and preparation to fight large-scale wildfires, including the lack of modern firefighting aircraft.