Flash Floods in Turkey Kill 59, and Dozens Are Still Missing


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Europe|Flash Floods in Turkey Kill 59, and Dozens Are Still Missing
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/15/world/europe/turkey-floods.html
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The death toll rose to at least 59 a fifth day after the disaster, and more than 70 people remain missing.

Flash Floods in Turkey Kill 59, and Dozens Are Still Missing
Damaged buildings lined the river banks on Saturday in Bozkurt, Turkey.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The death toll in the flash floods that roared across northern Turkey has risen to 59, with dozens of people still missing and many villages still cut off, almost a week after the disaster first struck, officials said.

The authorities said on Saturday that the damage from the flooding was unprecedented. At one point, more than 330 villages were without electricity, and more than 80 were still without power as of Sunday. Receding waters left vehicles toppled in the streets, and thick mud filled almost the entirety of the ground floor in some houses in the village of Babacay, according to footage on local news channels.

It was the latest grim natural disaster in a summer of extreme weather events in Europe that has included flooding in Germany and Belgium, heat waves in Italy and Russia and wildfires in Greece and elsewhere. In an era of climate change, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in general have risen, although individual events cannot necessarily be attributed to it.

“The flood we experienced is the heaviest one I have ever seen,” Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s interior minister, told reporters in Bozkurt, in Kastamonu Province, late Saturday, adding after days of silence about the missing that more than 70 people remained unaccounted for in the neighboring provinces of Kastamonu and Sinop. Government opponents have said the number is far higher.

Soldiers arrived on Saturday to help clear the debris in Bozkurt. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Rescue workers were still working to find them, and hundreds of personnel, including military police, were dealing with the flood’s aftermath. Helicopters delivered generators to the inaccessible villages and distributed 20 tons of food, Mr. Soylu said, and neighboring provinces deployed governors to help urgently reopen roads to villages in the mountains.

The devastation was driven home by grisly video footage of bodies washing up on the coastline amid tree branches and other debris.

In the hard-hit village of Bozkurt near the Black Sea, the force of the waters collapsed buildings and left families searching for loved ones.

Eight members of one extended family were missing in the village — 12-year-old twin girls, their grandparents, two younger children and their two aunts, said Fatih Karaalioglu, a relative, in a phone interview, and the family had not been able to reach them.

They were waiting to hear from a cold-storage depot in the region, where bodies of the unidentified have been held.

Flooding is common in coastal Turkish cities near the Black Sea, where many structures are built on river beds, making them vulnerable. The mismanagement of rivers, experts say, by narrowing natural channels, has also made flooding more likely.

The floods caused devastation in Ilisi, Turkey, near the Black Sea.Credit...Mehmet Caliskan/Reuters

The flooding came only days after deadly fires — the worst in decades — ravaged villages in southern Turkey, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes and destroying huge sections of farmland and livestock.