Death toll from northern Turkey floods hits 57

Torrential rains caused flooding that demolished homes, severed at least five bridges, swept away cars and rendered numerous roads unpassable.

This handout image shows destroyed buildings in Kastamonu after flash floods swept across the Black Sea region [AFP]

The death toll from severe floods and mudslides in coastal Turkey has climbed to at least 57, the country’s emergency and disaster agency said.

Families of those missing after Turkey’s worst floods in years anxiously watched rescue teams search buildings on Saturday, fearing the death toll from the raging torrents could rise further.

“This is unprecedented. There is no power. The mobile phones were dead. There was no reception. You couldn’t receive news from anyone,” said Ilyas Kalabalik, a 42-year-old resident of Bozkurt.

About 45cm (18 inches) of rain fell in less than three days in one village near Bozkurt.

Torrential rains that pounded the Black Sea provinces of Bartin, Kastamonu and Sinop on Wednesday caused flooding that demolished homes, severed at least five bridges, swept away cars and rendered numerous roads unpassable.

Turkish disaster agency AFAD said 48 people were killed in Kastamonu, eight in Sinop, and one in Bartin. Eight people remained hospitalised in Sinop, according to the agency.

Some residents in Kastamonu said on social media there were hundreds more missing, a statement also made by an opposition lawmaker. But the provincial governor’s office said that reports about 250 unidentified bodies were untrue. It did not specifically address how many people could be missing in the flooding.

In Sinop, floodwaters almost completely wiped out the village of Babacay, leaving toppled homes, damaged bridges and rubble in their wake. A five-story apartment building constructed on a riverbed was destroyed.

Rescue teams and sniffer dogs kept up the painstaking task of trying to locate the missing. AFAD said 5,820 personnel, 20 rescue dogs, 20 helicopters and two search planes were at the disaster spots.

A view shows a partially collapsed building, as the area was hit by flash floods that swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region, in the town of Bozkurt, in Kastamonu province, Turke [Mehmet Emin Caliskan/Reuters]

Improper construction?

About 2,250 people were evacuated across the region, some lifted from rooftops by helicopters, and many were being temporarily housed in student dormitories, authorities said.

The devastation came just as the disaster-hit country was gaining control over hundreds of wildfires that killed eight people and destroyed swaths of forest along its scenic southern coast.

Scientists say such natural disasters are becoming more intense and frequent because of global warming caused by polluting emissions.

Experts in Turkey, however, say interference with rivers and improper construction also were contributors to the massive damage in Turkey’s floods.

Geologists have said construction narrowed the river bed and the surrounding alluvial flood plain of the Ezine stream in Kastamonu’s Bozkurt district, where the damage was most severe. Residential buildings were built along the waterfront.

Search and rescue team members evacuate a girl during flash floods that have swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region [File: AFP]

Building anger

Anger appeared to be building in Black Sea towns and cities over what some said was a lack of proper warning from local officials about the dangers of the incoming storms.

“They told us to move our cars but they didn’t tell us to save ourselves or our children,” Kastamonu province resident Arzu Yucel told the private DHA news agency.

“If they had, I would have taken them and left in five minutes. They didn’t even tell us that the river was overflowing,” the elderly woman said.

Some longtime residents of the region said this year’s flooding was the worst they could recall.

“I am 75 years old and have never seen anything like this,” Batin province resident Adem Senol told the Anadolu state news agency.

“The water rose higher than the level of our windows, it broke down our door, even a wall,” he said. “It was a powerful stream, enough to sweep away houses.”

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 240 kilometres (150 miles) wide.

Images on social media showed bridges collapsing under the force of the rushing waters and roads buckling from mudslides.

Nearly 200 villages were still without electricity, authorities said.

Footage captured on a phone showed one man standing on top of his car as it was being swept along by the current. He then vanished in the swirling waters when his vehicle hit a wall.

Weather services predicted rains to continue to lash the affected area for the remainder of the week.

Source: News Agencies