THE death toll from Turkey’s flash floods soared to 27 on Friday as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepared to inspect one of the hardest-hit regions and lend his moral support.
The devastations across Turkey’s northern Black Sea regions came just as the disaster-hit country was winning control over hundreds of wildfires that killed eight people and destroyed swathes of forest along its scenic southern coast.
Turkey also suffered another bout of flooding in the northeastern province of Rize last month that killed six.
World scientists believe that natural disasters like those in Turkey are becoming more intense and frequent because of global warming and climate change.
They also pose a serious challenge to Erdogan two years before Turkey’s next scheduled general election.
The powerful Turkish leader was roundly condemned on social media for tossing out bags of tea to locals while visiting one of the fire-ravaged regions when the wildfires were first spreading at the end of July.
Polls show that the climate is a top priority for up to seven million members of Generation Z whose votes Erdogan will need to extend his rule into a third decade in the 2023 vote.
Erdogan so far has said little about the flooding.
“I offer my condolences to the loved ones of our 17 fellow citizens who lost their lives,” he said when the toll was still 17 on Thursday night.
His office said that Erdogan was speaking on the phone to regional leaders and promising to deliver all the assistance available to the state.
– Collapsed buildings –
Emergency services said waters briefly rose in some parts as high as four metres (13 feet) before subsiding and spreading across a region stretching more than 150 miles (240 kilometres) wide.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli warned on Wednesday that the area was facing “a disaster that we had not seen in 50 or 100 years”.
Rescuers have been forced to evacuate a hospital holding 45 patients four of them in intensive care in the region around the coastal city of Sinop.
Images on television and social media showed stranded villagers being plucked off rooftops by helicopter and bridges collapsing under the force of the rushing water below.
The Anadolu state news agency said Thursday that rescuers were focusing on a four-floor apartment building that partially crumbled and another one next to it that completely collapsed.
Images showed parts of both river-front buildings toppling into the rushing flood of brown water below.
Turkey’s disaster response authority said 25 people had lost their lives in the northern Kastamonu province and two in the neighbouring region of Sinop. One person was still missing.
Weather services predicted rains to continue to lash the affected area for the remainder of the week.