Turkey's largest city Istanbul has been inundated by flash floods sparked by torrential rains. The death toll has already passed two dozen and is expected to continue to rise. The flooding has brought much of the city to a halt and is being described as the worst to hit the city in decades.
The floods hit the western suburbs of Istanbul the hardest, turning many of the city's main roads into fast moving rivers of mud and dirt during early morning rush hour.
|Rescuers evacuate people trapped in a bus in Ikitelli, Istanbul, Turkey, 09 Sep 2009|
Hundreds of people were trapped in cars and buses, while tens of thousands more were forced out of their homes. Throughout the day army and coast guard helicopters helped people to safety. But others were not so lucky as this man explains.
"It was 10 o'clock when my father went out to put his car to a safer place, then suddenly a big wave like a tsunami struck," one man said. "But interestingly not from the sea, but from the land, it was very strange and terrible. It swept away my father along with his car out to sea. He added that there is also a two-year-old daughter of his friend from the next apartment block also missing."
Many others also are believed to have been swept out to sea in their cars. The death toll has steadily risen throughout the day and is expected to grow over the next few days, when the waters finally recede.
The floods were triggered by overnight torrential rain that meteorologists say was some of the heaviest ever recorded.
Much of the damage is in neighborhoods where buildings were built illegally on a flood plain. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas admitted there were problems.
He says even though this happens every 80 or 300 years, or there is a one in 1,000 chance, they should consider plan settlements accordingly. He says while he was flying over the region, he saw the illegal constructions. He says they are responsible in checking these, but you cannot follow all these illegal constructions.
Most of the illegal construction occurred in the past couple of decades when the city nearly tripled in size. While flooding is a common problem in Istanbul, the scale of this week's flash floods took the country by surprise.
Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler sought to defuse growing anger.
"We provided the necessary things with our resources," he said. "Our priority for now is rescuing lives. But we will also investigate causes of the destruction. But for now, he says, our priority is the people."
With more heavy rain forecast, rescue workers are bracing themselves for more flooding. But when the waters recede, analysts say officials will probably face a political storm over how a modern city was inundated and so many lost their lives and homes.