The death toll in wildfires that have been devastating Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts since Wednesday has risen to six, with hundreds more injured, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Eighty-eight fires out of a total of 98 that erupted in 30 provinces since around noon on Wednesday have been brought under control, with cooling efforts underway, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli announced on social media on Saturday.
The remaining 10 fires are continuing to burn in Antalya, Mersin, Adana, Muğla and Osmaniye provinces, according to the latest statement from the minister.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday declared the regions affected by the wildfires in the five provinces as disaster areas.
“We will continue to take all necessary steps to heal our nation’s wounds, compensate for its losses and improve its opportunities,” the president said on his social media account.
Meanwhile, İstanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya on Friday announced on Twitter that a ban on entrance to the forested areas of Turkey’s largest city would be in effect until August 31 as the city is on high alert for more fires due to high temperatures with strong winds.
Local authorities in other provinces, including Gaziantep, Çanakkale, Balıkesir and Kocaeli, have imposed similar restrictions given the ongoing wildfires across the country.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has been under fire due to its poor handling of the major wildfires sweeping the country, attracted widespread criticism after Pakdemirli told reporters on Friday that Turkey does not have a firefighting plane in its inventory but has started working on procuring some on Erdoğan’s orders.
Opposition leaders slam AKP gov’t over lack of firefighting aircraft
Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, said on Friday that she last year had warned Pakdemirli, whom she referred to as “a world brand in incompetence,” regarding the lack of firefighting planes in the country.
“But today, there are still no planes [to fight fires]. The response [to the wildfires] is inadequate. Still, you continue to [stay in your positions] and talk nonsense with your [inept way of ruling],” the İYİ leader added, addressing the AKP government.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who on Friday visited Antalya, one of the provinces most severely affected by the wildfires, also said it was “irresponsible” of the AKP government not to have purchased firefighting planes for its inventory.
“Every year, forest fires occur [in Turkey], and [at least] one region is hit by a flood. We experience earthquakes every now and then. But we try to take precautions from scratch every time, as if we were experiencing these [disasters] for the first time. This is the biggest weakness of the [AKP] government,” the CHP leader said.
“If they had been able to purchase one firefighting aircraft every year, Turkey would’ve had 19 planes right now,” Kılıçdaroğlu added, referring to the AKP’s 19-year rule in the country.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, although some forest fires have been blamed on arson.