A forest fire that broke out in three districts of Turkey’s southern Hatay province continued to burn for a second day on Saturday, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
A woodland area between the districts of Iskenderun, Belen and Arsuz caught on fire on Friday morning when a power transformer unit malfunctioned. Several neighbourhoods have been evacuated, as the fires spread rapidly towards residential areas due to strong winds.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli announced that seven apartment buildings, 11 houses, 14 businesses, eight factories, three warehouses and 35 bee hives had been affected. He said his ministry launched has an investigation into the possibility of sabotage.
Due to the continuing strong winds, firefighting aircrafts cannot be utilised so efforts continue on land, the minister said.
— AA Canlı (@AACanli) October 9, 2020
State-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday that the fire actually started across the border, in Syria’s northeastern Latakia province.
There are suspicions that an attack by Syrian regime forces sparked the fire in Latakia’s rural woodland areas, Anadolu said.
Nine plots in Hatay, including in the Arsuz and Belen districts, were designated as mining sites in August, and the Arsuz municipality at the time said the decision had been made “without any information on whether they were currently pastures, woodlands, water sources or protected natural or archaeological sites.”
Türkiye’deki 766 maden arama ve işletme alanından 2’si Arsuz’da açılacak.
İhaleye çıkılacak sahaların mera mı, orman mı, tarım alanı mı, doğal ya da arkeolojik sit alanları ya da su havzaları olup olmadıkları hakkında hiçbir bilgi bulunmamakta. pic.twitter.com/EtbBl4THCO
— Arsuz Belediyesi (@ArsuzBelediyesi) August 20, 2020
“Mining in Belen would kill the forests. Mining in Arsuz would destroy farmlands,” Nermin Yıldırım Kara, chairwoman of the Iskenderun Environmental Protection Association, had told reporters.