Turkey is on Fire!

Turkey is on fire! This is no praise, Turkey is burning, witnessing the worst wildfire in its history. The flames are killing wildlife and threatening nature’s ability to trap and store carbon, threatening the natural defence against the climate crisis. As the fires helped by the wind scattered and grew, scared locals rushed to the sea, filling up plastic cans with water to beat back the flames approaching their homes. Many people have been left homeless, and some have even lost their lives, grievously. Fortunately, the majority of the fires are now under control. Turkey’s coastal Paradise, once covered in pine forests and olive trees, was turned into ashes.

Fires across 30 Turkish Provinces

Over the past three weeks, more than 223 fires have been reported across 30 Turkish provinces. Most of the fires have ignited along the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea coasts in resort areas around Antalya, Mugla and Marmaris. Fires were still being fed by strong winds, air temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), and low humidity. More than 55,000 hectares were burned, destroying forests, homes, agricultural land and livestock. As of August 9, only two fires continued to burn. At least eight people have died in the fires along Turkey’s southern and western coasts, including two firefighters, and thousands have been evacuated. 

In Marmaris, the locals face another painful loss. This corner of Turkey produced most of the world’s pine honey, a special kind of honey that depends on a delicate ecosystem, now largely destroyed. « A pine tree takes 50 to 60 years to acquire honey-giving properties. My grandchildren may see this place populated by insects again, but not my children ”, a farmer said.

Turkish Government Outstanding Reaction

Nevertheless, in terms of crisis management, Turkey is doing a good job. The government announced that there were 3 planes, 25 helicopters and 2 fire extinguishers who were trying to stop the flames. Also, the municipalities and their firefighters from different cities came to help. The NGO « Ahbap » leased a helicopter from a French company and gathered financial aid from other companies. Turkey received some international help as well. In fact, Spain sent 2 firefighter planes and a transport plane with 27 pilots. Other planes came from Russia, Croatia and Iran. As for Azerbaijani, many of its soldiers came to Turkey to help.

Floods in Turkey

The floods, the second natural disaster to strike Turkey this month, wreaked chaos throughout a number of northern provinces over the past days. These floods are caused by unusually heavy rainfall that are ravaging Turkey’s northern coast, tearing down a bridge and leaving villages without electricity. The floods, triggered by torrential rain, caused some buildings to collapse, smashed bridges, clogged streets with wrecked cars and cut power supplies. More than 70 people had been killed in three provinces along the Black Sea, including 60 in Kastamonu. Dozens of people are still missing. More than 2,000 people were evacuated from affected areas, some with the help of helicopters and boats. Residents climbed on the rooftops of their buildings to escape rising waters, video from the area showed. Buses, cars and houses had toppled into the muddy waters that flooded the streets of towns and villages.

In 2021, several countries witnessed unprecedented wildfires. Driven by extreme heat and prolonged drought, the ignition of forests and grasslands released 343 megatons of carbon, about a fifth higher than the previous global peak for July, which was set in 2014. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle wrote on August 5 : « The month of July was the second-hottest ever recorded in Europe, and the third globally. The south of the continent has been the focus of this extreme heat, with temperatures in Greece this week expected to peak at 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit). Greece and neighbouring Turkey are in the midst of a heatwave that could be the worst in 30 years, invoking memories of the nightmarish 1987 fire season that claimed more than 1500 victims in Greece alone » . It’s been a summer of climate-related disasters around the world. A landmark United Nations report on climate change, released on Monday (Aug. 9), confirmed the trend: the planet is not coping with human influences on its climate and the situation is bound to get worse. Wildfires are complex phenomenons caused by many different factors, from weather that is influenced by climate change to vegetation, natural ignitions and human activities.

Wildfires all over the world

These disasters are not just proper to the Mediterranean region as Russian fires in Siberia are shown by satellite images of vast areas of taiga (a forest of the cold, subarctic region) being devoured by flames. burning more than 62,300 square miles (151356,26 square kilometres) since the beginning of the year, according to Greenpeace. That’s an area nearly twice the size of Austria. In the U.S, the Dixie Fire has become the largest wildfire in the history of California, having destroyed more than 700 square miles (1,811 square kilometre) of land. Countries around the Mediterranean have been seeing some of their highest temperatures in decades, and where there’s heat, there’s fire. The Mediterranean region is ablaze with wildfires, Greece’s most severe heatwave in decades has fanned blazes that have destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of forests and farmland. Evia, Greece’s second-large island, has been the center of the storm of fires that have ravaged the country. Over half of the island has burned, according to local officials. Italy, Algeria, Lebanon, Spain, Tunisia and Morocco have seen one of their worst fire seasons, too.

Reaction of Rotaractors from Districts 2420 and 2430

Around the world, thousands of  Rotaractors are helping and supporting people affected by the fires. In Turkey, many campaigns have been organized. The biggest campaign of District 2420 was launched in the 28th of July by 22 Rotaract Clubs : Adalar, Atasehir, Atakoy, Beyoglu, Bostanci, Bomonti, Caddebostan, Erenkoy, Etiler, Fatih, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Kalamis, Maslak, Online Türkiye, Sariyer, Suadiye, Sisli, Tarabya, Tuzla, Yeniköy and Zakariyaköy Rotaract Club. This beautiful family did an outstanding job! In fact, thousands of boxes were distributed along 125 regions, including Antalya, Mügla, Osmaniye, Mersin, Adana, Kayesri and the list goes on. The packages that were sent to Marmaris contained necessities such as : FFP2 masks, fireproof gloves and working shoes, gas masks, flashlights, batteries, shovels and blankets. Other ones were sent to Mugla and Manavgat, the boxes contained : nasal sprays, eye drops, troche, ammonia, painkiller relaxant and allergy creams. This campaign provided great social and medical support to the citizens in the fire areas. The campaign is still going on, and donations are still needed. Please contact any club of hosting ones for any donation. The District 2430 did an amazing job as well. A “disaster relief” campaign was organized by the Disaster Committee, and it has provided emergency assistance and ensured that the necessary needs were sent to the disaster areas. The committee is working on creating a Rotaract forest in order to regenerate the trees. In fact, 20 clubs are participating in this campaign, and dozens of these products were sent to Adana, Marmaris and Antalya : clothes, flashlights and charging cables, kitchen tools, masks, batteries and medical supplies. 

Wildfires are becoming bigger, faster and hotter than before, torching more of our world. If global climate change continues at this rate, in every corner of the world, these disasters will rapidly become ever more frequent and destructive. Lives are burning, black smoke clouds the air, rising over our forests, endangering trees and plant life. Moreover, an ecosystem without plants cannot survive for long. We know climate change is happening, and we know that it is caused by our actions. Solving climate change takes a global effort, and starts with little daily actions. In that regard, the MDIOs is organizing a live event this Saturday 21st of August 2021 with climate change as a main topic. Please join us and be part of breathing new life into our planet. 

Special thanks to Irmak Uzuner (Medtimes Journalist, MedAction Collaborator, Rotaract Club of Tarabya D.2420) and members of Districts 2420 and 2430 for providing me with the needed information.

Salma Tani

Medtimes Journalist

Rotaract Club FMPF (D.9010)


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