Turkey wildfire toll hits 15 as experts flag faulty wires

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
4 min read

The death toll from a massive wildfire that ripped through Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast last week has risen to 15, hospital sources said on Monday with experts pointing to faulty wiring as a possible cause.

The blaze, which broke out on Thursday between the cities of Diyarbakir and Mardin, killed 12 people outright and left five more fighting for their lives.

Three of those succumbed to their injuries on Sunday, the Anadolu state news agency said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Hospital sources confirmed the toll on Monday, saying two people remained in intensive care.

Hundreds of animals also perished in the blaze that roared across the dry landscape.

The government said “stubble burning” was the cause but the Diyarbakir branch of the Chambers of Turkish Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) ruled that out and pointed to faulty electric cables as the likely trigger.

“The fire could have been caused by the power cables,” it said in a report released late on Sunday, indicating that there was “no stubble” in the area and that electric wires there were in a state of disrepair.

“The cause of the fire was not the stubble. The electricity cables and poles were unmaintained and dangerous,” it said, pointing to the absence of “fire prevention measures around the poles.”

It also accused private electricity distributor DEDAS, which is responsible for maintaining the area’s power lines, of “replacing and repairing the poles the day after the fire, thus obscuring the evidence.”

Faulty wiring in Koksalan village

The findings came two days after an expert report sent to the local public prosecutor’s office said conductive wire “broke and ignited the grass on the ground and it spread to a wide area due to the effect of strong wind.”

The faulty wiring was on a pole in Koksalan village, in an area where the fields had not yet been harvested, the experts said.

They calculated the blaze had ravaged between 1,650 and 2,000 hectares (4,080 and 4,940 acres) of farmland, forest and residential areas.

Last June, a fire that broke out in the same area destroyed 68 hectares of land, with local residents pointing the finger at faulty wiring, and an expert report identifying DEDAS as “primarily” responsible.

The villagers filed a legal complaint and won, with a Diyarbakır court finding DEDAS guilty of not properly maintaining the infrastructure and ordering it to pay compensation. It was not clear how much.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish DEM party, which won many southeastern municipalities in local elections in March and had criticized the government’s slow response to the fire, called for a parliamentary inquiry to determine responsibility and to hold public bodies accountable for failing to prevent the blaze.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Friday had blamed the fire on “stubble burning” and the justice ministry said it had opened a probe.

The fire also devastated local flocks, with an AFP reporter at the scene seeing around 100 animals lying dead on the ground in Koksalan and residents saying around half of their roughly 1,000 sheep and goats had perished.

A local vet, who did not want to give his name, confirmed the deaths and said many of the survivors were so badly injured that they would be put to slaughter.

Turkey has suffered 81 wildfires so far this year that have ravaged more than 15,000 hectares of land, according to the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Experts say human-driven climate change is causing more frequent and more intense wildfires and other natural disasters, and have warned Turkey to take measures to tackle the problem.

Read more:

Wildfire halts shipping in Turkey’s Dardanelles strait

Erdogan says Biden faces a test of sincerity in handling of the Gaza war

Turkey, US slap sanctions on ISIS-linked smuggling network

Top Content Trending