A 12-year-old boy has admitted to starting a forest fire in the coastal tourist destination of Manavgat, according to a report by Deutsche Welle Turkish service, as Turkish authorities continue to investigate the cause of wildfires that have been sweeping the country’s southern and western coasts since July 28.
The youngster, referred to only by the initials M.A.T, was taken into custody as part of the investigation into the fires and told prosecutors he was feeling down due to his parents’ decision to divorce and planned to set the forest near their home on fire in a sign of protest.
M.A.T was released on probation and was placed under state protection after appearing in court in Manavgat on Monday.
In his statement M.A.T. said on July 28 he collected dry brush in the forest where he grazes animals and set it on fire with a lighter he took from his kitchen.
He said the flames got larger and larger and that he tried to put them out but ran home when he failed. The boy said he wasn’t told by anybody to set the forest on fire and acted alone, adding that he was sorry for what he did.
M.A.T. also said a 16-year-old who was arrested earlier in connection with the wildfires did not tell him to start the fire.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has so far not made any statement indicating that the fires were the result of arson; however, some pro-government figures put the blame on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey.
According to experts, the multiple blazes have been fueled by scorching summer temperatures and conditions that they say have been worsened by climate change.
According to a statement from the General Directorate of Forestry, 174 fires have broken out across 39 provinces since July 28. One hundred sixty of them have been contained, while efforts are under way to bring the 14 remaining fires in five provinces under control on the ninth day since the fires began.