Thousands of people were evacuated due to a wildfire in Turkey's southwestern Datça peninsula, as firefighters battled Thursday to contain the blazes fanned by strong winds that spread to residential areas overnight.
Forestry Minister Vahit Kirişci said preliminary investigations showed the fire broke out at an electrical transformer around midday on Wednesday.
"What makes our job a little more difficult is the wind effect, the direction and intensity of which are unpredictable," he said early Thursday.
Turkey's Disaster Management Authority (AFAD) said some 450 houses and 3,530 people were evacuated as fires reached residential areas in the sparsely populated parts of the peninsula.
Footage from Wednesday showed smoke billowing from the woodlands as helicopters doused water on the blazes while the flames spread. It also showed the garden of a house engulfed in smoke, with trees in the yard catching fire.
The Muğla province mayor's office said 17 houses and 728 hectares of land were affected by the fire. It shared data that showed winds in the region had eased significantly Thursday morning.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 19 people had been affected by the fire and nine of them were still being treated as of Thursday morning.
Authorities said 10 planes and 20 helicopters, including one that can operate at night, were involved in the efforts to douse the flames.
Another fire that broke out in the Aegean resort town of Çesme was contained on Thursday morning, the forestry authority said.
Izmir Governor Yavuz Selim Köşger said four planes, seven helicopters, 117 vehicles and more than 750 personnel were working to extinguish the fire.
He added that the Forestry Department responded to the fire that broke out between Zeytineli and Karaköy provinces within nine minutes.
“The gendarmerie, AFAD, fire brigade, municipality and local administrations helped our regional Forestry Department. It should be underlined that the people of the region also contributed actively to the fire extinguishing efforts.” Köşger said.
“As a result of their extraordinary efforts, despite all the negative conditions and strong wind, the fire is partially under control both in Ovacık and between Zeytineli and Karaköy. All our vehicles and crews will continue to work in the field against any flame,” he added.
He said seven people were asked to give their statements as part of an investigation regarding the cause of the fire. Two of them remain in custody while five others have been released.
“The fire in Ovacık was most likely caused by a waterfall coming out of between the high voltage lines,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Izmir governor’s office said the fire in the Alaçatı district may have been caused by the sparks of the welding machine used during the construction of the animal shelter built by a non-governmental organization.
Countries including France and Portugal – suffering from a second heatwave in as many months – have been hit by a series of wildfires over the last few weeks. Scientists say human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe.
The blazes in southwestern Turkey conjured memories of last year's summer fires that ravaged 140,000 hectares (345,950 acres) of the countryside, the worst on record.