Criticism of disaster response rises as floods hit Turkey’s quake-ravaged southeast  / Andrew Wilks

Floods have brought more misery to southeast Turkey, sweeping away tents and container shelters housing the survivors of February’s earthquake. The floodwaters also brought further criticism of the government’s disaster preparation and response. 

At least 14 people were killed as rains on Tuesday and Wednesday turned streets into surging torrents. Adiyaman and Sanliurfa provinces, both of which suffered during last month’s earthquake, were hit hardest. Tent and container “cities” housing those left homeless by the earthquakes were deluged by the surging waters.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 12 people were killed by the floods in Sanliurfa while two others died in neighboring Adiyaman. Rescue teams were still searching for five people reported missing in three locations, he addd.
In the Adiyaman town of Tut, a container home housing a family was swept away and one person killed, according to Numan Hatipoglu, the provincial governor.
The bodies of five Syrians were discovered in a flooded basement in Sanliurfa province, private news agency DHA reported. Governor Salih Ayhan also said four other people were killed in the floods.
Another two bodies were pulled from vehicles trapped in an underpass in Sanliurfa.
TV footage showed divers in Sanliurfa searching muddy river waters as excavators scooped sludge from the waterway. The waters of the city’s sacred Fish Lake, said to be linked to the Prophet Abraham, were turned a murky brown.
Images from cell phones showed ordinary citizens rescuing people by hauling them from flooded underpasses or pulling them to the upper stories of apartment blocks from the swirling waters below.
The Health and Social Service Workers’ Union said the lower floors of Sanliurfa Eyyubiye Training and Research Hospital flooded, including an intensive care ward. “It is not natural disasters but visionless, unqualified managers who cause this,” the union tweeted.
Earthquake survivors in Adiyaman complained they had largely been left to clear their water-logged tents themselves.
“There is no municipality or aid team anyway, so we have to continue to stay in these water-filled tents,” the left-wing Evrensel news outlet quoted one resident as saying. “Our tents were submerged in water.”
Sanliurfa Mayor Zeynel Abidin Beyazgul, who represents President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), was booed by crowds as he visited the floods and had to be ushered away by police.
Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD said search and rescue teams were looking for missing people and helping those trapped in their buildings. Rescuers in Adiyaman were reported to be searching for a missing bus that was caught in the waters.
AFAD added that more than 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain had fallen in the affected provinces over 24 hours and warned that further heavy rains and storms were expected in the region until Thursday.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) led criticism of the government. CHP deputy leader Ali Oztunc said in a statement, “Even the tents they set up after the earthquake are not resistant to disasters. This is either incompetence or recklessness.”
Oztunc, a lawmaker for Kahramanmaras, another province affected by the quake and the flood, claimed temporary shelters for earthquake survivors should have been placed in areas not subject to flooding.
“There is a fire, they cannot extinguish it; there is a pandemic, they cannot distribute masks; there is an earthquake, they cannot distribute tents; there is a flood, people die in the tents they set up,” he added. “These things are all the result of incompetent and inefficient management. It is time to get rid of them and bring level-headed, capable and resourceful people to the administration.”
Three opposition leaders — the CHP’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Meral Aksener of the Good Party and the Future Party’s Ahmet Davutoglu — were due to arrive in Sanliurfa on Wednesday evening. Elections are scheduled for May 14.
Soylu, the interior minister, tried to reassure people. “Our governors, gendarmerie commander, our regional managers are here,” he said from Sanliurfa. “The roads are open, there is electricity and water. Our precautions and warnings continue.”
Devlet Bahceli, whose Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is allied to the AKP, used a condolence message to lash out at critics. “No disaster will interrupt our historical march,” he tweeted. “No wave of attacks, slanders and accusations will break our stance.”
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeast Turkey and north Syria on Feb. 6, killing more than 48,000 people in Turkey. More than 200,000 buildings either collapsed or were severely damaged, leaving millions homeless.
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