Three young people have died and another is missing after heavy rain lashed parts of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Wednesday, 5 December, in some of the worst storms for years.
The three victims – one female and two male – were named by Turkish Cypriot police as Gaye Soyutok, 18, Tolga Bekçi, 21, and Ahmet Kılıç, 23. Police were still searching for a fourth person and a vehicle, a statement said, with drones used to aid the operation.
The wreckage of a car was later discovered half buried in mud. Local reports said it is believed the four were in the same car when it was “swept away”by floodwaters.
Video reports showed rescuers recovering a body from a ravine in the Ciklos area of the Lefkoşa-Girne dual carriageway on Thursday.
Parts of the Lefkoşa-Girne route had to be temporarily closed to traffic on Wednesday night due to flooding.
A statement from the TRNC Public Works and Transport Ministry on Thursday said traffic on the road – which had been fully reopened just last week following months of resurfacing and widening – had been reduced to a single lane in the Ciklos zone due to damage caused by the heavy rainfall.
“We urge drivers going to Lefkoşa from Girne to drive slow[ly] and take extra caution,”a statement in English said.
Schools, universities and some workplaces were closed on Thursday, 6 December, as a precautionary measure, with the bad weather expected to continue into Friday. Schools are set to remain closed on Friday, 7 December, as well.
President Mustafa Akıncı expressed his “deep sorrow” over the deaths and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
“The floods caused by the bad weather have caused many of our citizens to suffer,”he said in a written statement on Thursday afternoon.
“All the units of our State are working swiftly to bandage the wounds. I have absolutely no doubt that our people will offer all types of assistance possible to these efforts and will be in solidarity with the places experiencing problems.
“The most painful dimension of this catastrophe is of course the loss of life and the fact that our young saplings have been taken from us.”
He claimed that lax construction planning had contributed to floods and said it was “everyone’s responsibility” to take action.
Deputy PM Kudret Özersay: “Public paying the price for reckless development”
“In order to prevent the damage caused by natural disasters being so great, it has become more and more striking that much more serious planning and preventions need to be taken,” his statement continued.
“It is an unpostponable duty to address this issue and to start the necessary work as soon as the wounds of this pain have been bandaged.”
Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman, inspecting damage caused by rain and flooding in Dikmen, where a bridge reportedly collapsed and cars on the road to Near East University were submerged by water pouring down the mountainside, said that the necessary precautions would be taken to prevent further disasters. He also visited other badly hit areas, including Alsancak and Lapta.
Expressing his condolences, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay also pointed the finger at poor planning.
“Today we have seen how the many buildings built in river beds and the piles of concrete disrupt the natural flow of the waters,”he said.
Dr Özersay added that the public was “paying the price”for years of “reckless”development made in the pursuit of “more floors, more concrete and more profits”.
The TRNC’s Disaster and Emergency Committee has set up a crisis desk to oversee the country’s response to the weather chaos.
In a statement issued earlier on Thursday it said that land and air rescue operations had been undertaken and that precautions, including the preparation of sandbags, had been taken at Lefkoşa State Hospital, which is located by a river that is prone to flooding.
Vital medical equipment located in the hospital’s basement has been moved to the building’s upper floors the statement said, while ambulance crews have been put on standby.
Photos: stills from Onur Celik’s KKTC’de Sel felakati (TRNC’s flood disaster) clip, shown above, 06 Dec. 2018