A little boy ready for a swim stops on the edge of the clear water, his gaze distracted by a firefighting plane flying low through a rust-red sky. For many, the photo – apparently taken by a Russian holidaymaker in Antalya last week – has come to symbolise the destruction wreaked by the ferocious wildfires that have consumed Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline over the past eight days.

More than 180 fires have killed eight people, devastated vast swathes of pine forest and agricultural land and on Wednesday crept closer to a thermal power plant as international firefighting teams used helicopters, water cannon and dug trenches to slow the spread of the flames.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is facing a rising tide of anger from the Turkish public thanks to his government’s slow and lacklustre response to the disaster. His Justice and Development party was already struggling in the polls owing to the country’s economic troubles.

The photograph has been shared widely by Turkish social media users, many of whom are reeling from the unprecedented wildfires, which experts say have been caused by the climate crisis and incompetent management from Ankara’s forestry department.

“May Allah curse those who turned our paradise into a hell”, one user commented.

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