ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — More than a thousand firefighters, aided by water-dropping planes and helicopters, on Wednesday battled a wildfire that erupted overnight near a popular resort in southwestern Turkey forcing dozens of home evacuations.
An official voiced hope that the blaze — one year after the worst wildfires in Turkey's history — was close to being tamed but urged caution due to the strong prevailing winds.
The fire erupted Tuesday evening in the Bordubet region, near Marmaris on Turkey’s Aegean coast. It spread rapidly, fanned by strong winds, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Smoke filled the orange-tinted sky over Bordubet, video footage from the area showed, and authorities evacuated dozens of homes near the region as a precaution.
The smoke made its way over to the Greek island of Rhodes - a short ferry ride from Marmaris, where a plume was visible over the sea and extended over a part of the island, just south of the city center.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, including the possibility of arson.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspected the area by helicopter on Wednesday, while Vahit Kirisci, the agriculture and forestry minister, told reporters that the fire had been “largely” contained. He also said however, that he was making his remarks with “some caution.”
“Of course, it is possible that it may jump from one place to another due to the wind,” he said.
Extended drought conditions in several Mediterranean countries, a heat wave last week that reached northern Germany and high fuel costs for aircraft needed to fight wildfires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.
Anadolu said close to 1,600 personnel were involved in efforts to bring the fire under control, including teams brought in from neighboring provinces. A total of 20 helicopters and 14 planes were deployed, the agency reported.
“Due to the winds, the situation does not look good,” Mehmet Oktay, the mayor of Marmaris said in a video message late on Tuesday.
Last summer, blazes that were fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and countless animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.
Erdogan’s government came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.
Associated Press writer Giovanna Dell'Orto reported from Rhodes, Greece.
Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press