August 1, 2008
Fires Threaten Several Ancient Sites In Turkey
On Friday, fires threatened several sites of ancient culture in Istanbul as fire fighters backed by a dozen aircraft struggled to extinguish scattered blazes engulfing woodlands in the coastal tourism province of Antalya.
Fire fighters said up to 4,000 hectares (9,885 acres) of woodlands in Antalya could be destroyed if they are not contained. No deaths or injuries have been reported, but television images showed destroyed houses and fleeing villagers.
Antalya Forest Directorate spokesman Aydogan Turedi said flames were approaching an ancient Greek amphitheatre in Aspendos, 37 km (23 miles) from the Mediterranean resort of Side.
Some of the richest remains of Greek civilization are located in Antalya, Turkey. It is the nation's top tourist destination receiving about 7 million tourists each year, mostly during the summer period.
"There are some tourist areas that are four to five kilometers (miles) away from the fire, but we don't think they are in danger," said Turedi. He also said that winds were blowing in the direction of other resort areas.
"The starting point of the fire was just near a stream which tourists use for rafting," he said.
Five villages had been evacuated and the fires, spurred on by heavy winds, seriously damaged four of them.
"I have nothing left," said one older woman who lost her home in the blaze.
On Friday, civil defense teams arrived in the village of Karatas to search for two families believed to have been lost in the blaze, state-run news agency Anatolian reported, but no deaths had yet been confirmed.
The cause of the fires was not immediately known.
Seven planes and five helicopters were employed to help control the fire but strong winds and excessive heat were making it difficult to get the flames under control.
"This is one of the biggest fires in Antalya's history in terms of area affected but definitely the biggest area in terms of damage it has caused," Turedi said.
"It could affect an area of 4,000 hectares ... We cannot clearly define the area (destroyed) because of heavy smoke."
Destroyed houses and families running away from flames as they engulfed a village were seen all over Turkish television.
Cars and trucks clogged the roads as locals sought to escape the area.
One distraught man said the fire spread really quickly and there was nothing that could be done about it.
"Now the whole village is burning," a the man told CNN Turk.