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Turkey: Death toll mounts in devastating floods

August 13, 2021

Flash flooding and mudslides have claimed at least 44 lives in northern Turkey. President Erdogan visited the region to promise support.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and local officials survey flood damage in Bozkurt, Turkey
President Erdogan (r) has been under fire for his government's handling of widespread natural catastrophesImage: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AA/picture alliance

Turkey's AFAD emergency management agency raised the death toll from flooding in the country's Black Sea coastal region to 44 on Saturday.

The announcement came after days of heavy rain swelled rivers like the Ezine, causing floodwaters to rise as high as 5 meters (16.5 feet) in some areas — destroying property and infrastructure in a region prone to flooding and landslides.

A total of 36 deaths were recorded in the province of Kastamonu while seven victims perished in Sinop, according to AFAD. One person died in Bartin with ten people believed to be buried in a collapsed building on the river.

The same area was hit by similar flooding last year.

Erdogan visits disaster area

The floods, the second natural disaster to strike Turkey this month, wreaked chaos throughout a number of northern provinces over the past two days.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday visited Bozkurt, one of the hardest-hit cities in the area, to attend a funeral for victims and pledge government help.

"We will do whatever we can as a state as quickly as we can and rise from the ashes," Erdogan said as he spoke to mourners. "We can't bring back the citizens we lost but our state has the means and power to compensate those who lost loved ones."

The country has already been battling wildfires on its southern coastline, prompting the EU to send assistance.

At least three cities have been affected, with emergency agencies having to evacuate more than 2,250 people from the Bartin, Kastamonu and Sinop provinces.

Homes, bridges, and cars have also been swept away. Power infrastructure has also been damaged, leaving about 330 villages without electricity.

Emergency services scrambled

At least 5,280 emergency personnel, 20 rescue dogs, 20 helicopters, 24 boats and two planes were involved in search-and-rescue operations on Thursday.

The country's disaster agency said the bodies of victims had been recovered in Kastamonu and Sinop with many still missing.

Local broadcaster NTV showed dramatic footage of a building collapsing along a river in Kastamonu.

An aerial view shows a destroyed in a flooded area following heavy rainfalls near Kastamonu
An aerial view shows a destroyed in a flooded area following heavy rainfalls near Kastamonu, TurkeyImage: DHA/AFP/Getty Images

In Bartin province, at least 13 people were injured when a bridge collapsed. Army helicopters helped airlift dozens of trapped residents to safety.

Many of the affected areas have been left without power and infrastructure has been damaged. The region is prone to heavy rain at this time of the year.

Just last month, at least six people were killed in the coastal province of Rize which is also along the Black Sea.

Floods and fires, a dual challenge

Weather scientists say that climate change is causing these extreme weather events because the burning of fossil fuels causes the planet to warm up.

Turkish geologists like Ramazam Demirtas said flooding was worsened by construction on the Bozkurt waterfront of the Ezine that narrowed the river bed, limiting the overflow area.

Meteorologists are predicting there will be more bad weather arriving ahead of the weekend. The deluge has come in the wake of what the government says are the worst fires in the country's history.

Wildfires had been tearing through southwest Turkey laying waste to vast tracts of land. At least eight people were killed in the fires since July 28. Firefighters managed to bring some 275 fires under control.

Antalya and Mugla were some of the worst-hit cities, although 53 of Turkey's provinces were affected.

jc.js,kb,jf/rs (AP, dpa, Reuters)