‘The animals are on fire,’ say devastated farmers as wildfires sweep Turkey

“The animals are on fire,” 56-year-old resident, Muzeyyan Kacar, told CNN. “Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals and our house. What else do we have anyway?”

At least six people have died in dozens of blazes that started earlier this week, amid scorching summer temperatures and fires that experts say have been worsened by climate change.

Among the victims are two firefighters who were killed battling the flames on Saturday, according to the Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.

Since Wednesday, 88 fires have broken out across the country, said the ministry. Ten fires were still burning on Saturday, it added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared parts of five provinces on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast “disaster zones,” following a helicopter visit to the devastated areas.

“We will continue to take all steps to heal the wounds of our people, to compensate for losses and to improve opportunities to better than before,” the president added in a tweet Saturday.

The largest fire, in Manavgat, Antalya Province, killed at least three people, according to the Turkish Natural Disaster and Emergency Directorate (AFAD).

In the nearby village of Kacarlar, residents are grappling with seeing homes they built by hand burn to the ground.

Gulay Kacar, 48, told CNN: "Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals and our house."

“My father’s house burned down,” said 48-year-old Gulay Kacar. “Gone, gone, it’s gone,” Kacar said, before adding that she was “running to let the animals loose.”

Namet Atik, a 37-year-old farmer from a neighboring village, said that he came to Kacarlar to help. “Whatever this village needs … we are here for them,” he told CNN

“We get them water, our cars, tractors, saws,” he added. “We are forest villagers. Our livelihood is the forest. If this fire runs, there is no return.”

Namet Atik, 37, said: "This is the last stand. If we can't contain it, the fire will run for kilometers."

Holidaymakers were also evacuated by sea from a resort in Bodrum, on the Mediterranean coast, on Thursday. The evacuation was a precaution, and the area was closed to traffic to allow easy access for fire trucks, TRT reported.

Around 4,000 personnel, along with hundreds of emergency vehicles, have been deployed by the government to help fight the flames this week.

At least 77 houses have been damaged in the province of Antalya, and more than 2,000 farm animals have died, Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Bekir Pakdemirli, told journalists on Thursday.

Firefighters try to get the fire under control in Kirli village near the town of Manavgat, in Antalya province, early Friday July 30.

Scorching temperatures

Hot and dry weather conditions had exacerbated the fires, said Pakdemirli Thursday. He added that temperatures of 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), less than 14% humidity and winds around 50 kilometers per hour (31 m.p.h.) had helped spread the flames.

Hikmet Ozturk, a forestry expert with the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, a nongovernmental organization that works to protect forests, told CNN that while 95% of fires in Turkey are caused by people, the spread of the fires is worsened by climate change.

The area of the fires are within the Mediterranean Basin which is one of the most susceptible to climate change risks, Ozturk said. “Typical weather conditions in the summer for the area is hot and dry, which means the risk of fires is already high, and climate change raises that risk,” he said

The wildfires come as parts of western Europe have battle severe flooding in recent weeks. Scientists have for decades warned that climate change will make extreme weather events, including heavy rain and deadly flooding, more likely.

CNN’s Gul Tuysuz and Arwa Damon reported from Turkey. Sheena McKenzie wrote in London.


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