Friday, May 27

Turkish fires ravaging tourist areas are the hottest on record | Turkey

The intensity of heat from the wildfires in Turkey on Thursday was four times higher than anything recorded in the nation, according to satellite data transmitted to The Guardian.

At least four people were killed by the fires that swept through the tourist regions of Antalya and Muğla, forcing thousands of tourists to be evacuated from their hotels by a flotilla of boats.

Conditions there and at the sites of dozens of other fires across the country were dry as tinder. Turkey’s 60-year temperature record was broken the previous week when Cizre, a city in the southeast, registered 49.1 ° C.

A forest fire in the hills behind Icmeler Bay in Muğla province.
Fires are burning in the hills behind Icmeler Bay in Muğla province. Photography: Alina Kvasha / TASS

After deadly heat waves in the Americas, floods in Europe and China, and fires in Siberia, scenes of destruction in Turkey add to concerns about the increasing ferocity of extreme weather in a climate-altered world.

Local media published photos of popular Aegean Sea resorts surrounded by burning slopes and burning forests and farmland. In Bodrum, in Muğla province, 80 hectares were burned despite firefighting efforts on the ground and by air. The flames cut through two hotels, forcing the evacuation of more than 4,000 tourists and staff by coastguards and fishing boats.

Wildfires are common in Turkey during the summer, but the fires of the past two days have been rare. Satellite analysis by the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service shows that the heat intensity of the country’s fires on Thursday reached about 20 gigawatts, four times the previous daily high.

Bathers watch as a helicopter carries water from the sea to dump it on the fires near Marmaris.
Bathers watch as a helicopter carries water from the sea to dump it on the fires near Marmaris. Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

“Those figures are out of scale compared to the last 19 years,” said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. He said smoke from the fires near Antalya and Mersin was now being transported to Cyprus.

Residents of the affected cities told reporters they had never seen anything like it. Ibrahim Aydin, a farmer, said he had lost all his livestock and nearly died while fighting the flames. “Everything I had was burned to the ground. I lost lambs and other animals, ”he told the Daily Sabah. “This is not normal. This was like hell.”

Across the country, firefighters fought more than 50 fires. Dozens of people were hospitalized for the fumes. As the news spread, #PrayForTurkey was trending on Twitter with images of devastation and maps showing the locations of more than two dozen fires across the country.

A forest fire on the southern coast of Turkey near Manavgat, Antalya province.
A forest fire on the southern coast of Turkey near Manavgat, Antalya province. Photograph: Kaan Soyturk / Reuters

Government ministers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speculated that the cause could be the arson attacks by the Kurdish separatist movement PKK, but did not provide evidence. Few national reports mentioned broader climate trends increasing fire hazards in Turkey and elsewhere.

Climate scientists have long predicted that the Mediterranean will be hit hard by rising temperatures and changes in rainfall, driven by human emissions. The risk of forest fires in the future is projected to increase in southern Europe, according to the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Turkish climatologist Levent kurnaz He said the recent weather had created conditions for an easy start. “The climate is extremely hot and dry. This helps start fires. Our smallest mistake leads to a great disaster, ”he tweeted.

This year the trend seems likely to continue. The World Meteorological Organization He tweeted that extreme heat is affecting the broader Mediterranean region and temperatures are forecast to rise well above 40 ° C in inland areas of Italy, Greece, Tunisia and Turkey. He has called for preparations to be made to prevent health and water supply problems.

The heat wave in southern Europe is expected to last well into next week and some forecasts suggest it could be among the most severe on record. The Turkish Meteorological Office sees little chance of a respite in the next week. Next week, Ankara and several other ensembles are slated for temperatures more than 12 ° C higher than the August average.

Forest fires have already hit southern Greece, forcing villages outside the western port city of Patras to be evacuated and killing one person in Lebanon. There are also fires in Bulgaria and Albania. High temperature warnings have been issued in North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and parts of Romania and Serbia.

The EU has issued its highest fire risk alert in places in Italy, Portugal, Spain and parts of North Africa. Further east, a large fire broke out in Lebanon on Thursday. “The risk is very high right now,” Parrington said. “We could start to see more fires in the coming weeks if these temperatures continue.”

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