Erdogan is under pressure due to Turkey’s response to wildfires

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As Turkish firefighters fight fires along the Mediterranean coast, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized for his government’s response to what he called the worst fire in the country’s history.

Although the entire Europe experienced extreme weather this summer, from severe flooding in the north to severe heat waves and fires in parts of the Mediterranean, Turkey suffered the most violent fire on record.

Since the fire started last week, 8 people have died and hundreds of tourists have been evacuated as the fire spread to 40 provinces. According to a forestry official, as of noon on Wednesday, nearly 300 fires have been extinguished and 13 fires are still burning.

“This year’s fire is different from any other fire in our history. This is the largest,” Erdogan said in a television interview. “On the eighth day of our operation, we are now facing a fire in a thermal power plant.”

According to news channels, the fire reached a coal-fired power station in Mugla Province late Wednesday, prompting soldiers to evacuate nearby houses amidst the explosion of the facility. The Ministry of National Defense said on Twitter that the military landing ship reached the coast 20 kilometers away and moved residents to safety.

On Wednesday, a Spanish seaplane lit a “water bomb” flame near Mugla ©ERDEM SAHIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Although soaring temperatures, low humidity and 50 km/h wind gusts complicate the response, people are angry at a country that is clearly not fully prepared for the year-round attention of summer forest fires.

Due to the lack of a functioning national firefighting fleet, Turkey has to wait for special aircraft from other countries, including Spain, Ukraine and Russia. Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli (Bekir Pakdemirli) said that Ankara rejected Greece’s offer of assistance because of the low water carrying capacity of its aircraft.

“I didn’t see any planes. Intervention by land is almost impossible due to the terrain…. Therefore, the fire naturally came about,” said Mehmet Oktay, the opposition mayor of the resort town of Marmaris, nearby. More than 13,000 hectares of forest were scorched, and six fires continue to burn. “If we suffer this kind of loss, we are obviously not prepared.”

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Marmaris and other fire-affected areas are among the most important tourist destinations in Turkey, and the tourism industry has been hit by coronavirus travel restrictions.

Scientists say that the fires in Turkey are part of a series of extreme weather events caused by climate change; there were also fires in Italy and Greece this summer. Even Finland, where temperatures hit a record high in July, suffered the worst forest fires in half a century. However, Turkey is the only G20 country that refuses to ratify the Paris climate change agreement.

Saluhan Oluk, a member of the People’s Democratic Party, the second largest opposition party in the parliament, said: “Failure to ratify the climate change agreement is the government’s view of the environment as part of the environment that can be developed rather than protected.” “The scale of the disaster is to blame. Lack of preparation, including ownership of aircraft and negligence.”

The emergency situation has exacerbated voters’ dissatisfaction with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose approval ratings in opinion polls have fallen to an all-time low because the party has spent most of the past four years. Suffering from high unemployment and high inflation rates. “The Turks have a feeling that the government has failed to provide a better standard of living in an all-round way. Opinion polls show that most people believe that the situation will get worse in the near future,” said Carnegie, a visiting scholar in Europe. Said Sinan Ulgen.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks with residents of Manavgat, Antalya

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks with residents of Manavgat, Antalya, which has been hit by wildfires.His response to the emergency drew criticism © The President of Turkey via The Associated Press

Erdogan went to some of the worst-hit areas over the weekend to express grief over the loss of life and promised to “bandage the wounds for our citizens.” Everyone applauded him. But some of his attempts to comfort the victims were ridiculed. In Marmaris, he threw bags of free tea from a moving bus—a week ago, he distributed tea to residents of the Black Sea community that was hit by deadly floods.

A video shows that hip-hop artist Sehinsah laughed at this gesture, telling the concert audience that he gave them a “surprise” before throwing tea. Another video circulated on social media showed a woman throwing tea boxes at unsuspecting pedestrians and asking “Are you happy now?” Twitter was popular with the theme of the ruling party acronym “AKParTea” game.

The spoof is even more noticeable because criticism of Erdogan is closely monitored. Prosecutors filed a case against nearly 10,000 people for insulting the president last year, which is a crime in Turkey. “People find this idea of ​​throwing tea is weird [when] A few years ago, the current government knew the pulse of the population well. Now they seem to have lost this connection,” Urgen said.

Erdogan’s communications chief, Fahrettin Altun, regarded information shared on social media as “fake news” and said that Turkey would compensate people for property losses. He said on Twitter: “We are mobilizing the country to continue fighting forest fires by all means.”

A painful woman investigates the scene in Oren

A painful woman investigates the scene in Oren © Emre Tazegul/AP

Even the promise to rebuild hundreds of destroyed or damaged houses did not achieve the desired results.

When the fire hit the village last week, the National Housing Administration tweeted a model of the new village house. Mehmet Ozeren, the mayor of the hard-hit Gundogmus district of the AKP, said this week that those who have lost their homes can now enjoy low-interest loans from housing agencies. “It may be wrong to say that, but I think people who own very old houses will say,’If only our house were burned down,'” he told reporters.

Bekir Agirdir, head of KONDA Research, a polling agency, said: “Because people think that the problem cannot be solved, trust in the government is declining.” “Turkey is still polarized on cultural and identity issues, but daily life issues are so heavy-a pandemic. , Unemployment, inflation, floods, fires-the feeling that the government cannot solve these problems is growing.”

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