A firefighting aircraft drops water on a wildfire near Marmaris, a town in Mugla province, Turkey, June 22, 2022. REUTERS/Kenan Gurbuz
ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Firefighters battled a wildfire in southwestern Turkey from land and air on Thursday, as hopes that the blazes were contained fizzled after they spread again due to high temperatures and windy conditions a day earlier.
Scenes of burning woodland near the Aegean coastal resort of Marmaris sparked fears of a repeat of last year’s fires that devastated tens of thousands of hectares (acres) across the region.
Reuters footage showed smoke billowing from hills and police water cannon vehicles helping firefighters as the blaze spread through the woodlands in the sparsely populated area.
Forestry Minister Vahit Kirisci said he was hopeful that there would be positive developments regarding the fire by Thursday evening.
He said humidity was higher on Thursday compared to a day earlier and that it was less windy, which he said would help efforts.
But the Mugla municipality said the wind was expected to pick up pace in the afternoon and that 2,881 hectares (7,119 acres) of land were damaged so far, according to unofficial figures.
On Thursday, 45 helicopters and 12 planes were tackling the fire and dropping water on the flames after pausing overnight.
Kirisci said 274 people were evacuated as a precaution and that some 2,600 people were working to contain the fire.
He had said on Wednesday morning that the fire was contained but it later spread, fanned by strong winds and hot weather.
The cause of the fire, which began around 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Tuesday is not clear.
Human-induced climate change is making heat waves more likely and more severe, scientists say.
Last summer’s wildfires, most of which were also near Marmaris, were the most intense in Turkey on record, a European Union atmosphere monitor said last year, adding that the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hot spot.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government was criticised for being unprepared to fight the fires last year, especially due to a lack of planes and helicopters. It responded by saying the wildfires were the worst in Turkey’s history.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Wednesday the government was “incompetent” and had not prepared for the fires since last year.
“The whole world knows how sensitive an area the Mediterranean basin is on this issue due to climate change,” Kilicdaroglu said, speaking near Marmaris.
“They’ll blame the wind and not themselves,” he said.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the government had planned to receive night-vision helicopters by July but would now bring that date forward.