ANKARA – A wind-stoked wildfire that has been raging near a popular resort in southwestern Turkey has been largely brought under control, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.
The blaze erupted Tuesday in the Bordubet region, near Marmaris on the Aegean Sea coast, and spread rapidly, blackening swaths of pine forest and driving hundreds of people from their homes.
Speaking to reporters after an inspection of the area, Erdogan said an estimated 4,000 hectares (nearly 9,900 acres) of forest was affected by the fire. Reforestation efforts would begin as soon as possible, he said.
“We saw a (fire) in one small area but other than that, thank God, it has been brought under control to a large extent,” he told reporters.
More than 45 people people were affected by the blaze and 19 of them were taken to hospitals for treatment, Erdogan said.
“We are happy above all, that there was no loss of life and no one was reported missing,” he said.
Authorities on Thursday detained a 34-year-old man who allegedly confessed to having started the fire following a dispute with family members, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
Erdogan said he favored heavy punishment for people convicted for igniting wildfires, adding that the country should also start a debate on whether to restore the death penalty.
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 have been evacuated from their homes as a precaution, Turkey's disaster management agency, AFAD, said.
Extended drought conditions in several Mediterranean countries, a heat wave last week that reached northern Germany and high fuel costs for aircraft needed to fight wildfires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.
Last summer, blazes that were fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and countless animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.
The government came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.