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Five dead, dozens hurt in southeastern Turkey wildfire


Friday, 21 June, 2024 , 12:36

Köksalan, Turkey, June 21, 2024 (AFP) — Five people died and dozens were hurt when a huge wildfire swept through several villages in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey overnight, the health minister said on Friday.

Hundreds of animals also perished in the blaze, local residents said. An AFP correspondent saw many of their bodies lying on the ground.

Dramatic overnight images on social media showed flames raging over a large area, lighting up the night sky.

By the morning they had left huge areas of charred and blackened land in two areas of Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces.

"Five people died and 44 were injured, 10 seriously," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on X.

Seven emergency teams and 35 ambulances went to the scene, he said.

Turkey's pro-Kurdish DEM party gave a higher toll. It said on X there were "seven dead" and criticised the government's intervention as "late and insufficient".

During the night, DEM had urged the government to send water bombers, saying fighting the blaze from the ground was "not enough".

An AFP reporter in Koksalan village in Diyarbakir province saw around 100 animals lying dead on the ground.

Residents told AFP around half their flock of about 1,000 sheep and goats had perished in the blaze.

A local vet confirmed around half the flock had died, without giving a precise number, telling AFP many others were being treated for burns.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya blamed the fire on "a stubble burn" which started late on Thursday and spread quickly due to strong winds, affecting five villages.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on X the public prosecutor's office had opened a probe into the cause of the fire.

Turkey has experienced 74 wildfires so far this year, which have ravaged 12,910 hectares of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

In the summer of 2021, Turkey suffered its worst-ever wildfires. They claimed nine lives and destroyed huge swathes of forested land across its Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.

The disaster prompted a political crisis after it emerged that Turkey had no functioning firefighting planes.

It heaped pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was forced to accept international help.

It also prompted Ankara to push through Turkey's delayed ratification of the Paris Climate Accord, becoming the last of the Group of 20 major economies to do so.

Experts say climate change will cause more frequent and more intense wildfires and other natural disasters in Turkey unless measures are taken to tackle the problem.