The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has announced the launch of a tender for the purchase of firefighting planes and helicopters after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government faced widespread criticism over the poor response to deadly wildfires in the country last year, local media reported on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a written statement that they would be purchasing five amphibious aircraft, five large tanker aircraft, 10 small tanker aircraft and 55 helicopters as part of a tender held by the Presidency of Defense Industry (SSB).
Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government attracted widespread criticism over their poor response and inadequate preparedness for large-scale wildfires that ravaged the country’s southern and western coasts on July 28 and claimed the lives of eight people and thousands of animals, also destroying large swathes of forestland, until they were fully contained on Aug. 13.
The harsh criticism by opposition figures and the public targeting Turkish authorities centered around Erdoğan’s inaction and the small number of firefighting planes actively used to respond to fires.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli had said in a press statement in the early stages of the fires that the ministry has never had firefighting planes or helicopters in its inventory and that they had started work to procure planes for the inventory, on the orders of the president.
Local media reports had said that Turkey had only one plane available to respond to the fires so leased two more from Russia for TL 1.3 million ($97,264) per day.
Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, although some forest fires have been blamed on arson.