At least 32 killed as flash floods hit parts of Istanbul


ISTANBUL – Flash floods killed at least 32 people in northwest Turkey, sweeping through the city of Istanbul, swamping houses, turning highways into fast-flowing rivers and drowning seven women in a minibus that was taking them to work.

Twenty-four died in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, after two days of the heaviest rain in 80 years produced sudden flood waters which engulfed low-lying areas. Another seven died in Saray, west of Istanbul, five of whom were from the same family.

In Istanbul, rescue workers, some in boats, put out planks and ladders to help drivers, stranded in fast-flowing waters, to reach the safety of bridges and high land.

The worst flooding occurred in areas in the west of the city, on the European side, where drainage is often poor.

Interior minister Besir Atalay said the death toll could rise as waters continued to recede.

Prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, a native of Istanbul, pledged emergency relief, saying the damage would be repaired as soon as possible. Witnesses said waves of muddy water pulling along cars, trees and debris crashed into homes and buildings as people were getting up to break their fasting during the month of Ramadan. “We heard a crashing sound and then saw the waters coming down carrying cars and debris,” said Nuri Bitken, a 42-year-old night watchman at a truck garage.

“We tried to wake up those who were still asleep in the trucks, but some didn’t make it. The dead had to be retrieved by boats,” Mr Bitken said.

The bodies of seven women were discovered in Bagcilar, a working-class suburb of Istanbul, on Wednesday. They had drowned in a minibus that was taking them to jobs at a textile factory, Anatolian news agency said. – (Reuters)