Istanbul flood triggers infrastructure debate
ISTANBULA heavy rainfall that hit Istanbul, causing fires and flash floods to occur across the city in the evening hours of July 27 has triggered debates over insufficiency of Istanbul’s infrastructures.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Barış Yarkadaş submitted a motion in parliament on what they called a “disaster” in Istanbul on July 28. “The ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] and especially the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s disregard for heavy rain warnings beforehand and not taking any affective, continuous, and concrete precautions suspended life in Istanbul first on July 18 and immediately thereafter on July 27. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality ignoring infrastructure problems should not be ignored by the public,” the motion said.
Those who failed to take the necessary precautions regarding the issue and those who acted with “recklessness” should be determined, and the necessary procedures against them should be taken, it added.
Meanwhile, CHP lawmaker Gülay Yedekçi in the parliament’s general assembly on July 27 pointed to the city’s deficiencies in terms of poor drainage systems and flood-prone areas.
“We have shared on Twitter. The children are swimming in the streets. Your personal construction policies, constructions undertaken in stream beds, illegal and unlicensed construction understanding and structuring have turned Istanbul into a concrete city and the concrete has now gone bankrupt,” she said.
“Istanbul is saying, ‘Do not stab a dagger into my heart.’ Hear Istanbul’s scream, which is saying, ‘Do not construct towers for income and overshadow Mimar Sinan’s minarets that rise to the sky.’ Istanbul is calling on you; hear its scream. Get your wild capitalist construction understanding off our city immediately,” Yedekçi added.
Transportation in the city also came to a near halt following the heavy rainfall.
A fire broke out in the Haydarpaşa port when a crane toppled on an oil tanker, causing explosions. The fire was taken under control after firefighters arrived at the scene.
Separately, the wall of a cemetery in the Kurtuluş neighborhood of the Şişli district collapsed and there were reports of wounded people at the scene. At least two people were wounded after the collapse, private broadcaster NTV reported.
Another fire also broke out in the Kağıthane district when a lightning struck a store.
A historic plane tree in the Çengelköy neighborhood in the Üsküdar district that took root 180 years ago, and has to date been used by locals as a meeting point, suffered in the face of the storm and toppled down.
The 26-meter-long tree, with a diameter of 126 cm, will be brought back to life, after an order from Istan-bul Mayor Kadir Topbaş. Teams of the Istanbul Park and Gardens Directorate first reduced the length of the 180-year-old tree to eight meters in order to decrease its weight. After applying the necessary recovery procedures, the teams will place the tree back to its original spot with hopes the treatment was successful.
The minaret of a mosque in the Küçüçekmece district collapsed.
A flight that took off from Istanbul to the Ercan Airport in Turkish Cyprus was also damaged by the hail, which fractured the plane’s cockpit windows.
Some subway stations were also flooded, while air traffic was also delayed by the rainfall.
Transportation on the Eurasia Tunnel, connecting Europe and Asia, was temporarily suspended due to the heavy rainfall. The two-way tunnel was later opened.
Several underpasses, intersections and some metro and bus stops were closed, leaving thousands of pedestrians stranded.
Many photos circulated on the internet, showing the destructive effects of the rain and storm, but there was one that went viral on social media, which showed seven passengers and a driver sitting on top of a sub-merged minibus, stranded in water in an underpass in the Aksaray neighborhood of the Fatih district. The minibus’ driver Mahmut Açar spoke about the “symbolic photograph” to daily Hürriyet in an interview, sa-ying he was taking the passengers from Taksim to Bakırköy when the heavy rain fell on them before the engine broke down.
The rainfall came nearly 10 days after another summer rainfall hit the city.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality announced that some 228 trees tumbled down in the city and the roofs of some 88 buildings blew off as a result of the heavy rain.
According to the municipality’s statement, the rain lasted for about 20 to 25 minutes in the city, which received between 30 and 40 kilograms of rain per meter square. During the heavy rain, some 25 lightings stroke the city on average per minute, totaling 372.
In the first five minutes of the rain, fire departments received about 250 reports of flooding cases in the city.
About 10 people, including two in critical condition, reportedly were taken to the Haydarpaşa Numune Hospital for treatment after receiving various injuries from the rain.
Meanwhile, the municipality said on July 27 the allegations of sewage water getting mixed with drinking water were baseless.
A similar statement came from the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration on July 28.
“In the analysis conducted, we have not come across any data in our water that would risk human health. As our drinking water transmission lines work under heavy pressure and in closed system, it is not possible for waste water to be mixed [with drinking water]. Our drinking water reaches to consumers after being purified in our sewage plants. We kindly request that such rumors are not paid attention to,” it said on its Twitter account.
Additionally, the rain and hail damaged many vehicles on the roads, prompting hundreds of citizens to take their cars to repair shops on July 28, a day after the summer storm. Some damages on the vehicles were reported to amount to as much as 10,000 Turkish Liras (around $2,800). As repair shops were overbooked, some locals were given appointments for the next week.
A local told daily Hürriyet that he was in his car when he got caught in the rain and did not attempt to go outside until it stopped.
“The vehicle submerged in the water until half of its level. Trees toppled. The front and back windows cracked and became crooked. It is a natural disaster. If we had gotten out [of the car], we would have gotten injured. Thank God for this, too,” the local said.
Repair shops and suppliers are falling short of meeting citizens’ demands on replacing the vehicles’ windows. “There is no window [at the repair shop]. It will come next week on Wednesday or Thursday. We will leave our car here,” another local told daily Hürriyet.
Authorities have warned that traffic insurance does not cover the damaged cars’ costs, but Kasko, a type of Turkish car insurance, does.