BY MEHMET GUZEL and SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press
MUGLA, Turkey (AP) – Actor Tevfik Erman Kutlu was on hiatus from filming in Istanbul when forest fires that devastated parts of southern Turkey first broke out.
Desperate to play a part in the efforts to put out the fires, he and five friends drove 725 kilometers (450 miles) to the resort town of Marmaris to lend a hand in the fight against the fires.
Once there, the friends formed a human chain helping to carry fire extinguishers, unfolded and rushed the hose from a fire engine to the fire department, and even fought a hillside blaze themselves, spraying the flames pressurized water under the direction of firefighters.
“Instead of staying at home and watching videos of the fires on social media, I wanted to be helpful,” the 41-year-old film and television actor, who currently stars in a series, told The Associated Press. televised on the mafia underworld. .
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They are among hundreds of volunteers who have joined together to contain the fires that have swept through the forests of Turkey’s southern and southwestern coasts, fueled by a summer heat wave, low humidity and strong winds. The fires, described as the worst in living memory in Turkey, have so far claimed eight lives, including a volunteer carrying clean water and other refreshments to firefighters in Marmaris.
The fires have also killed countless animals, destroyed acres of forests near the country’s favorite tourist destinations, and forced thousands of evacuations. Farmland has also been ravaged, leaving many locals concerned about their livelihoods.
In the coastal province of Mugla, where the tourist destinations of Bodrum and Marmaris are located, the fires continued to burn in three areas on Friday, officials said. The fires in Marmaris were largely contained on Friday, according to its mayor. Fires have also raged in some districts of Antalya province, another tourist spot.
High winds pushed one of the fires towards the compound of the Kemerkoy coal-fired power plant near the town of Milas, Mugla province on Wednesday evening, forcing nearby residents to flee aboard ships and navy cars. He was confined on Thursday after raging for about 11 hours and officials said his main units were undamaged.
In Turgut, the visibly tired volunteers were resting after helping the crews, some lying on the ground, others helping each other with eye drops or treating cuts and grazes. Elsewhere, other volunteers, including veterinarians, have helped injured farm and wild animals.
âAt the beginning, we were 15 volunteers,â says Nuriye Caglar, a 59-year-old retiree from Marmaris. âI don’t know how many there are now. Forty or 50? “
Mehmet Kara, a 36-year-old tourist agent from Istanbul, said: âThere was an incredible effort, the sacrifice of our friends up there. We fought the fires together, we cooperated.
âWe have had people who have been burned, who have been poisoned. We saw it all as the fires raged and did what we needed to do. Now the support teams have arrived and they are doing what is necessary. As you can see our friends are fighting tooth and nail, âsaid Kara, who drove with Kutlu from Istanbul.
It is not uncommon for Turks to mobilize in times of crisis, such as earthquakes. Many jump in cars to travel to affected areas, carrying food, water, clothing or blankets.
Turkey’s most famous search and rescue team, AKUT, is made up of trained volunteers. The group was founded in the 1990s by mountaineers frustrated by the failure of a mountain rescue operation led by the authorities.
Some volunteers have joined the firefighting efforts out of frustration over the government’s seemingly inadequate response and lack of preparedness for large-scale wildfires. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted last week that Turkey’s firefighting planes were grounded and that planes were arriving from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Croatia and Spain for help the country.
But Kutlu, best known for his role in the popular Turkish drama series “Valley of the Wolves”, said he was motivated by his “devotion to the country”. He insisted that now was not the time for recriminations.
âRight now there is a fire. Our goal, our only goal, is to stop this fire, âKutlu said. âWe will then hold someone to account. Who is to blame, who is not? Now is not the time to fight for it.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed.