By Isil Sariyuce, CNN and Reuters
Turkish firefighters were battling a blaze for a third day Friday near the Aegean coastal resort of Marmaris, in the same area that was hit last year by the worst fires in the country’s history.
Reuters footage showed smoke billowing from hills as the blaze spread through the woodlands in the sparsely populated area, with helicopters and planes dropping water on the flames throughout the day.
Police helped firefighters with water cannon vehicles as they sought to put out the fire that began around 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday and affected more than 8,400 acres (3,400) hectares of land.
More than 1,100 vehicles, as well as 61 helicopters and 13 aircraft were on duty Friday to deploy in the firefighting effort.
Authorities have blamed arson for the blaze. The human-made climate crisis is making heatwaves and wildfire seasons longer and more intense across parts of the Mediterranean, experts noted last year, regardless of how fires are started.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said one person had been detained and that he had admitted to setting fire to the forest out of frustration due to family issues. State-run news agency Anadolu reports he was found in the forest with two gasoline cans.
The blaze has been fanned by high winds in the area, and Forestry and Agriculture Minister Vahit Kirisci told reporters on Friday that there would be more “high temperature and wind as of this afternoon.”
“We are fighting against time before the expected wind,” a spokesman for the Mugla Province forest directorate told journalists on Friday.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday that 29 people had been affected by the fires, with two people still receiving treatment in hospital. Some 274 people were evacuated as a precaution, officials have said.
Turkey was the country worst affected by last year’s Mediterranean fires, which burned through more than 206,000 hectares of its land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government was criticized for being unprepared to fight the 2021 fires, especially due to a lack of planes and helicopters.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Wednesday the government was “incompetent” and had not increased preparedness following last year’s fires.
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