Turkish capital Ankara struggles to recover after deadly floods | Daily Sabah

2022-06-15 12:11:48 By : Ms. Shaojuan Wang

Heavy rainfall that triggered floods in the capital Ankara over the weekend shook the residents of the city not accustomed to such downpours in June. The floods, which swept away trees and inundated buildings in several districts, were also Ankara's deadliest in recent memory, claiming three lives. On Monday, the city’s residents sought to recover from the disaster’s impact, cleaning up shops and streets as the waters receded.

In the meantime, the meteorological forecast points to more showers for most of the country, including the capital, where rainfall has been sporadic after floods on Saturday.

The worst-hit part of the capital was Akyurt, a district in the city’s northeast, with a population of about 34,000 people. But the first victim was a driver trapped in floodwaters in a rural part of the Altındağ district. The body of the driver, a 27-year-old man, was found near his vehicle which flooded as he tried to escape. The other victims were a 21-year-old man who was electrocuted when the floodwaters inundated the shop where he was working and a 67-year-old man who fell from a wall he tried to scale while running away from the raging floodwaters. Another man remains missing in the floods.

Ankara municipality officials said they responded to “6,670 incidents” during the downpours and strong winds, which emerged earlier last week and continued into the weekend, from collapsed walls to people stranded in their vehicles or residences.

Search and rescue crews worked around-the-clock to respond to emergencies during the floods while Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu visited flood-hit sites at the weekend, examining the damage. The Ankara Governorate announced that schools were closed for Monday after weather forecasts showed more rainfall.

Serkan Demir, an Akyurt resident who was working to drain the water inundating his shop, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) late Sunday that it took “about 20 minutes” for the floods to “take over everything.” “Every shop and basement of apartment buildings were filled with water,” he said.

On Sunday evening, bulldozers and crews removed the debris left by floods and helped locals drain the floodwaters, while heavy vehicles like trucks were parked outside buildings on lower ground, serving as a blockade against potential floods. Akyurt was without power for hours due to the disaster. The work continued into Monday, with workers using handcarts to carry the mud covering the streets in some places. The most damage occurred in neighborhoods near Esenboğa Airport, the city's main aviation hub, with floodwaters submerging fields and gardens.

Minister of Environment, Urban Planning and Climate Change Murat Kurum visited a rural part of Haymana, another district affected by floods, on Monday. Kurum met citizens whose mudbrick houses and stables were devastated by the disaster. Kurum said they would deliver prefabricated housing units and tents to the area to accommodate the locals and their livestock.

Floods have been increasingly common in Turkey in recent years though they were largely confined to the Black Sea region which usually has a rainy climate. Even there, the floods have been more intense, claiming dozens of lives in the past few years. Experts tie the increase to climate change. The situation in Ankara has also been linked to the global phenomenon. Professor Murat Türkeş, a board member of the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, says such incidents are not necessarily linked to climate change but rather climate change contributes to their "changing characteristics and aggravates them."

"Central Anatolia (where the capital is located) is the meeting point of cold and warm weather hailing from the south and east and west and north. They have different humidities and temperatures and once they meet, it causes downpours. Climate change further increases vaporization. Hot air masses contain more vapor and thus, they cause more intense precipitation," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday. He said climate models showed that Turkey would be subject to more dense precipitation in the coming years while drought would affect some regions. "Local authorities should be more prepared for this. We need ways to prevent floodwaters from inundating central parts of cities. Rainwater harvesting can help, by blocking waters to be mixed with groundwater systems and helping in efficiently using water," he said.

Professor Levent Kurnaz, head of the center, says improving infrastructure should be a priority as it would minimize the damage from floods. "It is a costly matter and not every municipality is ready to cover it," he added. Kurnaz told AA that "drain load" was another factor in aggravated floods. "Unfortunately, there are no separate canals in most of Turkey for drainage of rainwater and sewage. We need systems for the proper absorption of rainwater. Rainwater is something you can store and use later. Cities now have too much 'concrete' and there is no place for the absorption of rainwater. We need to design new systems to achieve this," he said.

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