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Turkey's southern resort area is now battling big wildfires as well as COVID-19

·2 min read

Italy is fighting wildfires in Sicily and Greece is battling fires in the west of the country, but neither country is facing the conflagrations that have swept along Turkey's southern coast since last Wednesday. At least eight people have died in Turkey due to the wildfires, including two in the town of Manavgat on Sunday, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. Five other people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris have also died in recent days.

Authorities say more than 100 fires have erupted in Turkey in the past six days and most of them have been contained. Russia, Ukraine, Iran, and Azerbaijan have deployed teams to help Turkish firefighters and volunteers battle the blazes, and the European Union said Sunday it has helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes to fight the fires on Turkey's coast. The wildfires prompted boat evacuations in the popular resort town of Bodrum on Sunday in conditions Mayor Ahmet Aras described as "hell."

Bodrum and other vacation areas on Turkey's southwestern coast were struggling with a sharp drop in tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic before the fires broke out last week. "We closed the last tourism season down 75 percent," Aras had said in late June. "We expect a recovery from July with the start of flights from Russia and Europe." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in June that, "God willing, we will jump-start tourism and have a tourist push." Tourism did jump dramatically in July, but so did COVID-19 cases.

The damage from the wildfires and spread of the Delta variant are expected to hit Turkey's tourism sector just as it was rebounding, but the damage extends much further. "The animals are on fire," Muzeyyan Kacar, a 56-year-old farmer in the village of Kacarlar, told CNN. "Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house."

The southern coast of the northern Mediterranean has been unseasonably hot and dry, leaving the region susceptible to fires. But in Turkey at least, investigators are trying to determine if some of the raging fires were the result of arson.

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