Heavy rainfall hit Istanbul beginning from the early hours of July 18, paralyzing daily life and causing floods.
Millions of locals in Istanbul struggled and waded to work in the morning after early-morning thunderstorms boomed over the city, dumping torrents of rain and swamping transport networks.
Istanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) warned of flood risk across the city.
Following a couple of hours, flash flooding saw main roads turned into rivers, with many soaked commuters forced to abandon submerged vehicles.
Several underpasses, intersections and some metro and bus stops were closed, leaving thousands of pedestrians stranded.
Drenched commuters could be seen wringing out wet clothes or going barefoot after abandoning sodden footwear.
Some metro stations were flooded as public transportation came to a near halt.
A metro line running from Atatürk
International Airport on the city’s European side was flooded, and similar scenes were recorded at the Eurasia (Avrasya) road tunnel, which was opened in December 2016.
The Istanbul Municipality announced that transportation on the Eurasia Tunnel was temporarily suspended due to heavy rainfall. The two-way tunnel was opened around noon on the same day.
The province’s tram service between the districts Bağcılar and Kabataş was also suspended.
The Istanbul Governor’s Office also urged to leave their vehicles at home where possible, to prevent further road problems.
Many buildings and offices were flooded as swirling waters tore down trees and utility poles. A number of minor traffic accidents have been recorded so far.
Many of Istanbul’s 15-million-strong population rely on ferries for daily journeys but the extreme weather has also hit sea travel.
Istanbul Sea Buses and Fast Ferries Operators (IDO) cancelled some ferry services.
Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan described the heavy rainfall as a “natural disaster.” He said it took just 90 minutes of heavy rains to create the “extraordinary situation.”
Despite the disruption, no casualties had been reported, according to Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) President Mehmet Halis Bilden.
“They [AFAD teams] have all been carrying out search-and-rescue efforts. Thank God, there are no casualties, according to initial reports,” Bilden added.
The Turkish Forestry and Water Affairs Minister said the rainfall, which had the capacity to occur throughout a year, was received in 12 hours.
“Yesterday, we saw that this rainfall would come. We informed our president and prime minister about this. The rains will last until Wednesday [July 19] evening,” Veysel Eroğlu said.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin and Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş released statements to the press about expectations and warnings of the excessive rainfall in Istanbul.
Şahin said more rain was expected at around 2:00 p.m.
“The heavy rainfall will last until evening hours. There are no disruptions on our subway and tram services. One lane of the Eurasia Tunnel was stopped due to water accumulation in the Yenikapı and Samatya underpasses, which are outside the tunnel. Transportation on the Eurasia Tunnel was stopped for precaution but there is no trouble in the tunnel. After 2:00 p.m., a new wave of rainfall is expected again,” he said.
Topbaş also said there were no casualties from the floods reported.
“Fortunately, there was no loss of life. Material damage will be determined and compensation work will be done,” he said.
He stressed that Istanbul received rainfall much higher than the seasonal normal.
“Istanbul received 65 kilograms of rainfall over the eastern districts of it in one hour. Some 110 kilograms of rainfall fell over the center and the western districts of Istanbul,” he said.
He also said these kinds of incidents could be experienced anywhere in the world.
“Similar problems are experienced in many cities of the world. Years ago, a subway station in London flooded. This is a very normal rain. If we take care of it, we can get through it,” he added.
Meanwhile, meteorology authorities said they would lessen the damages caused by the rainfall until the evening hours.
“The General Directorate of Meteorology announced that the effects of the rainfall in Trakya and Istanbul will be reduced after 3:00 a.m.” the statement said.