ICMELER, Turkey – Until devastated by wildfires, hills near the Turkish sea resort of Marmaris were decked in thick green pine forest. Now these same hills form a ghostly, grey-brown landscape topped with blackened tree stumps as though sketched in charcoal.
Drone footage from the small tourist seaside town of Icmeler near Marmaris from before and after what President Tayyip Erdogan has called Turkey’s worst wildfires shows the extent of the devastation.
In the last two weeks, the fires have wrought damage on tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean provinces, killed eight people and forced thousands of people including tourists to flee.
Similar damage could be seen in before and after drone footage of the village of Bayir and the seaside resort of Turunc, also in the province of Mugla where both Marmaris and Bodrum, another major resort, are located.
Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said on Monday that the only wildfires continuing to burn were in the Mugla districts of Milas and Koycegiz, with nearly 240 blazes brought under control in the last 13 days.
Mugla municipality has said 55,000 hectares have been burnt – more than twice the area burnt across the whole of Turkey last year – and 36,000 people evacuated.
Strong winds, low humidity and temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) have contributed to the spread of the fires. Fire-fighting efforts involved 15 planes, 64 helicopters and 5,250 personnel, Pakdemirli said.
The U.N. climate panel sounded a dire warning Monday, saying the world is dangerously close to runaway warming and humans are “unequivocally” to blame, with greenhouse gas levels high enough to guarantee climate disruption for decades.
The 1.1-degree Celsius warming already recorded has been enough to unleash disastrous weather, including the wildfires in Turkey, Greece and the U.S. West.