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Northern Turkish towns recover from devastating floods that left 2 people dead

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
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Locals and workers cleared the mud that covered the towns following the floods. Locals and workers cleared the mud that covered the towns following the floods.

Two small towns in the northern Black Sea region are struggling to recover from massive floods Tuesday and Wednesday that left two people dead while authorities pledged aid for locals and measures to prevent future damage in flood-prone towns

The towns of Beşikdüzü and Eynesil in the northern Black Sea provinces of Trabzon and Giresun were hit by torrential downpours on Tuesday and Wednesday that triggered flash flooding which left two people dead in Beşikdüzü after landslides hit the victims' homes in two neighborhoods.

Authorities said the heavy rains were "unprecedented" and that the flooding left many stranded in their homes while landslides closed roads leading to villages near the towns. Crews rescued stranded locals in two towns and clearing efforts were underway as of yesterday while weather forecasts reported more rainfall this week.

Hundreds of workers worked yesterday to remove debris from the streets where locals waded through knee-high floodwaters to save their possessions drifting in the floodwaters. Trabzon Mayor Orhan Fevzi Gümrükçüoğlu said there was "significant material damage" stemming from the disaster and that cleaning efforts may take a couple of days.

In Eynesil, heavy rain caused two streams to overflow their banks and residences on the banks were hit particularly hard by the floodwaters. Giresun Governor Hasan Karahan said though the town did not have any casualties, the flooding killed livestock and the governor warned locals of additional rainfall. He said several village roads remained blocked due to floods, and bridges in the town dotted with streams also collapsed during the disaster.

Although the Black Sea region is accustomed to year-round downpours due to climate, the flash floods raised concerns on misplaced settlements in the region blamed for casualties and material damage from natural disasters.

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, two high-ranking officials who hail from the Black Sea region, visited the flood-hit towns yesterday and assured residents that measures would be taken to compensate for the losses and to prevent future disasters. Canikli said such disasters are seen "once every three or four decades" and they were "preventable," adding that "We are taking [preventative] measures and in the past decade alone, almost all rivers and streams in the region were rehabilitated [to prevent their impact on residential areas during the rainfall]. Disasters have been less frequent in recent years but it is difficult to cope with a rainfall of this scale," Canikli told reporters, pointing out that two days of rainfall left more than 300 kilograms of rainwater per square meter with inclined lands being blamed on heavier damage. "This is a deep-rooted problem and it has more to do with the location of towns. Beşikdüzü, for instance, should be 'elevated,'" Canikli said, adding that almost half of the town may need demolition as the settlements were built on inclined land prone to flooding. "We will have more disasters like this if we don't do it," Canikli added. The deputy prime minister said local authorities were working towards resettlement of the town but it would take a long time and have high costs.

Canikli said all businesses and residences damaged in the floods will be compensated, and state-run lender Ziraat Bank may postpone debts of residents affected by the floods.

The Black Sea region's rough terrain, where mountains run parallel to the coastline and streams are abundant, poses a major challenge for population in terms of construction and in the absence of flat locations; most opt to build their houses in river and stream beds.

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