Wildfires in southern Turkey leave 3 dead, 58 hospitalized

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Strong winds have fanned two separate forest fires in southern Turkey, killing at least three people and sending over 50 others to the hospital as homes burned down, officials said Thursday.

A wildfire that broke out Wednesday near the Mediterranean coastal resort town of Manavgat, in Antalya province, had largely been contained, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said. But another fire that started early Thursday and swept through the district of Akseki, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north, kept firefighters engaged.

Three people were killed in the fires, and authorities evacuated nearly 20 neighborhoods or villages.

Meanwhile, another forest fire broke out near the town of Armutalan, close to the resort of Marmaris, 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Antalya, threatening a coastal residential area that includes hotels. The state-run Anadolu Agency said some people were being evacuated from the area as a precaution. Pakdemirli said a firefighting plane and five helicopters were involved in efforts to bring the blaze under control.

The dead in the fires in Antalya included a 82-year-old man in Akseki’s Kepezbeleni neighborhood, where 80% of the houses were incinerated, the district’s governor, Volkan Hulur, told Anadolu.

The Turkish government's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said in addition to the three dead, at least 112 people were affected by the fires, including 58 who were hospitalized, mostly for smoke inhalation.

Authorities also rescued 10 people who were stranded at a restaurant by a dam near Akseki.

AFAD said several homes, businesses, crops and vehicles were damaged in Manavgat but did not elaborate.

“At the moment, there is no immediate threat to any settlement or to life, but in the hours to come, if the wind changes direction, we will need to take additional precautions,” Pakdemirli, the forest minister, told reporters in Manavgat.

He said 10 intubated intensive care patients at Manavgat's state hospital were transferred to other hospitals as a precaution.

The Antalya region is a popular vacation destination for tourists from Russia and other parts of Europe, but none of the holiday resorts were affected by the fires, officials said.

Firefighters were also tackling wildfires in other parts of Turkey, including one that temporarily closed a highway between the southern Turkish cities of Mersin and Antalya, Anadolu reported.

Wildfires are common in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions during the arid summer months, although some previous forest fires have been blamed on arson.

Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press

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