People who have lost homes and livelihoods in raging wildfires are growing increasingly angry at Turkish regime President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over what they say is a poor response to the blaze that has left eight people dead.
Thousands of residents and tourists have been forced to flee their homes and holiday resorts in boats or convoys of cars and trucks. Many villages along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast have lost homes and livestock.
Critics say Turkey’s government were not prepared for large-scale wildfires that are being fanned along the country’s southern coast by high temperatures and strong winds.
A week after the blaze broke out, firefighters are still tackling nine fires in the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla. There have been 137 fires across more than 30 provinces in all.
A senior forestry official described the wildfires as the worst in Turkey in living memory, though he could not say how many acres of forest land had been destroyed.
Anger has turned towards the government, which admitted it did not have a firefighting aircraft fleet, and that existing planes were not in usable condition.
Mr Erdogan’s government has also been accused of compromising firefighting efforts by refusing help from Western nations, including rival Greece, during the early stages.
Agriculture and forestry minister Bekir Pakdemirli rejected the accusation, saying the government had only refused offers of planes whose water-dumping capacities were less than five tonnes.
The Israeli embassy said Israel had also offered to help but Turkish officials had refused, saying the “situation is under control”.
The campaign drew an angry response from a senior Erdogan aide, Fahrettin Altun, who said: “Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing strong.”
Local mayors posted videos pleading for responses to wildfires in their areas while celebrities joined a social media campaign requesting foreign help.
Fire-dumping planes sent from Spain and Croatia are joining aircraft from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. A total of 16 planes, 51 helicopters and more than 5,000 personnel were tackling the fires, officials said.
Health minister Fahrettin Koca said 36 people in Mugla and 11 people in Antalya were being treated in hospitals for fire-related injuries.
Authorities have launched investigations into the cause of the fires, including possible sabotage by Kurdish militants, but experts mostly point to climate change, along with accidents caused by people.
Firefighters on Tuesday were fighting seven major blazes in Calabria, Sicily, Basilicata and Puglia, employing aircraft near Matera, in Basilicata and around three fires in Calabria.
A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from North Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.
Authorities in Greece closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours as temperatures reached 42C in parts of the Greek capital.
Greek authorities described the heatwave as the most intense in more than 30 years.