Istanbul, July 2, 2017 (AFP) - Turkey was on Sunday sweltering in a weekend heatwave that caused record temperatures in much of the country and triggered forest fires in the Aegean region. The southern resort city of Antalya, a magnet for foreign tourists, saw its highest temperature ever since records began, with the mercury hitting 45.4 degrees Celcius (114 Fahrenheit), the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
In Istanbul, temperatures rose as high as 39.2 C, just off the highest-ever temperature in recorded history, the Hurriyet daily said. Across the city, streets were empty as people sought shelter from the heat, with many taking a dip in the Bosphorus to cool down. Record temperatures were also recorded on the Aegean coast. Some 500 hectares of forest were on fire in the Menderes district of Izmir province, with nine helicopters and four planes seeking to douse the flames, local officials said.
A fire-fighting helicopter crashed into a dam while picking up water but the crew swam to shore and only suffered minor injuries, Turkish media said. Meteorologists said the heat was due to a band of hot weather from north Africa and temperatures would fall next week, with torrential rain forecast in many areas on Tuesday. Neighbouring Greece was also hit by the heatwave, with several regions recording temperatures of 43 C, including Athens where the environment ministry said ozone levels were very high. Many of the city's residents left for the weekend and those who remained behind invaded the nearby beaches to cool down. The heat also affected Bulgaria where five people died in the capital Sofia on Saturday due soaring temperatures, with the mercury peaking near 44 C, hospital sources said.