Flood-hit Black Sea provinces declared 'disaster areas' as death toll rises
Floods caused by heavy rains hit the Black Sea region in the north of the country on Aug. 11, leaving 43 people dead in the province of Kastamonu, Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) statement said.
Seven others died in the Sinop province and one person in Bartın province.
Arife Ünal, an 85-year-old woman, drowned and was swept away during the floods in Bartın. Four days of search and rescue efforts ended after finding her lifeless body 600 meters (1,970 feet) from her house.
According to a statement by the governor's office in Bartın, 13 bridges were destroyed in the flood, while at least 45 buildings were heavily damaged.
Rescue and relief operations continue in the flood-hit areas, the statement added.
Some 918 workers in Bartın, 3,547 in Kastamonu, and 1,910 in Sinop are conducting relief work in the affected areas, according to AFAD.
A total of 341 people in Bartın, 1,580 in Kastamonu, and 533 in Sinop were evacuated to safe areas by helicopters and boats, the disaster management agency said.
Meanwhile, 223 volunteers, nine catering trucks, and 54 vehicles sent by the Turkish Red Crescent to the region are working on the ground.
In Kastamonu, a stream burst its banks and inundated the town of Bozkurt. Raging floodwaters demolished one waterfront building and severely damaged two neighboring buildings.
The floods struck on the heels of wildfires in southern Turkey that devastated forest lands in the seaside provinces of Muğla and Antalya that are popular with tourists. At least eight people died and thousands of residents were forced to flee.
Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms. Such calamities are expected to happen more frequently as the planet warms.
The missing people include 12-year-old twin sisters and their grandparents who were trapped inside the eight-story building that collapsed in the town of Bozkurt. Emergency crews were seen sifting through the rubble searching for survivors.
The girls' mother, Arzu Yücel, told the Demirören News Agency that she had left the apartment building after authorities advised residents to move their vehicles to higher ground. When she returned, water surrounded the building and prevented her from entering. From another building, she watched her daughters wave at her.
"We spoke by phone. They waved from the balcony. They said, 'Don't worry, mommy, we are fine," Yücel said. "They told us 'Move your cars higher.' They didn't say 'Save your lives, save your children.' I could have gotten them out of there."
Speaking in Bozkurt late on Aug. 12, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu described the scenes as "the most severe flood disaster I have seen.'' On Aug. 11, he said, flood waters reached three or four meters (10-13 feet) high in some areas.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who canceled celebrations marking his ruling party's 20th anniversary, visited the area on Aug. 12 and promised to reconstruct demolished homes, roads and bridges.
The president added that after doing field assessment together with Soylu, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu, and Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum, they will take the necessary steps.
Bozkurt resident Yılmaz Ersevenli told NTV that he left his house to move his car to a safe area as the floodwaters began to rise but soon got swept away. He said he managed to save himself by holding on to a tree that had also washed away.
"I nearly lost my life trying to save my car,'' he said.
In Bartın province, at least 13 people were injured when a section of a bridge caved in. AFAD said 10 people are currently hospitalized.
In total, five bridges collapsed in the floods while two others were damaged, AFAD said. Dozens of villages are still without power and several roads remain blocked. Helicopters were still evacuating villagers on Aug. 13 from areas where there was no access by road.
Later in the day, Erdoğan announced the declaration of a disaster area for the places affected.
Those places will be able to do tax deferral and postpone Social Security Institution payments for tradesmen.
Assistance to cover property, vehicle, and workplace losses will also be provided.
While loan repayments of businesses will be postponed, the Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development Organization of Turkey (KOSGEB) will prepare an emergency support plan for disaster-hit areas.