29 die in Turkey flash floods

29 die in Turkey flash floods

Two Istanbul streams overflow inundating dozens of homes

Flash flooding has led to the deaths of at least 29 people in and around Istanbul, and several more are still missing, local authorities said on Wednesday as the area continued to struggle with its heaviest rainfall in 80 years.

The floodwaters rose quickly, and in just a few hours they had covered many of the city’s low-lying areas as well as one of the primary highways connecting the city centre and the main airport. Drivers who were caught by the heavy rains in Istanbul told the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency that the fast-rising waters were strong enough to push heavy trucks off the road. News stations showed images of people running and climbing on top of vehicles to escape the rising waters.

Rescue missions were in full swing on Wednesday, with around 400 workers equipped with heavy machinery and two helicopters, Veysel Eroglu, the minister of Environment and Forestry, said at a news conference. Two flooded streams breached their banks, flooding Ikitelli, a crowded business district along the highway, and dozens of homes and businesses in nearby neighbourhoods.

Meteorology officials said within an hour, the area around Ikitelli received almost twice the average rainfall recorded in Istanbul for the entire month of September.

Compounding the city’s problems, another front of more powerful rain was expected to move in over northwestern Turkey on Friday and Saturday, according to the meteorology service of NTV, a private television network.

Of the 29 deaths, 24 were in Istanbul, according to The Anatolian Agency. Seven of those were female textile workers in the neighborhood of Bagcilar. The women were getting off a minibus when they were swept away by raging water, NTV reported. Experts said that in addition to the record-breaking rain, a lack of adequate infrastructure in the area’s low-lying valleys may have also had a role in the heavy death toll.

“Istanbul doesn’t yet have a map on flood risks,” Miktad Kadioglu, a professor at Istanbul Technical University Meteorological Engineering Department, told NTV news. “We have the capability, using records of the last 30 years, to project rainfall and to plan proper construction, but that has not been considered,” the professor said.

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