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Turkey wildfires: ‘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?”

Hundreds of miles west, in the tourist hotspot of Bodrum, more than 1,000 people were evacuated by boat on both Sunday and Saturday to escape the wildfires.

At least eight people have died in more than 100 blazes that broke out earlier this week, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. The flames have been fueled by scorching summer temperatures and conditions that experts say have been worsened by climate change.

Seven people were killed in the fires in Manavgat, Antalya Province, and the eighth victim died in Marmaris, Anadolu reported. The latest victims include a Turkish-German couple who were found in a house, it said.

Two firefighters died battling the blazes on Saturday, according to the Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.

The ministry said that 111 fires have burned across the country since Wednesday, while six fires are still burning in three different cities as of Sunday.

Evacuation by sea

On Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, more than 1,100 people were evacuated from the tourist resort of Bodrum by sea on Sunday for the second-straight day.

“We helped the evacuation of 1,140 people by 12 boats,” Orhan Dinc, the president of the Bodrum Maritime Chamber, told CNN.

“We did evacuation by boats yesterday as well, but I have never witnessed something similar before in this region. This is the first time,” he said.

Dinc said that while roads remain open and evacuations continue by land, evacuation by sea helps keep roads clear for fire trucks and ambulances.

Bodrum also evacuated 1,100 people using more than 20 boats on Saturday, the city’s Mayor Ahmet Aras said. Bodrum is a popular destination for both Turkish and foreign tourists.

Plumes of smoke from a wildfire are seen near a residential area in the holiday resort of Bodrum, on Saturday July 31.

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.

‘Gone, gone, it’s gone’

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

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.”

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.
A helicopter fights wildfires in Kacarlar village, near the Mediterranean coastal town of Manavgat, on Saturday, July 31.

Scorching temperatures

Hot and dry weather conditions had exacerbated the fires, Pakdemirli said on 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. CNN’s Isil Sariyuce and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.

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