ISTANBUL: Turkish rescuers distributed food and relocated thousands of people into student dormitories on Thursday as the death toll from flash floods that swept across several Black Sea regions rose to nine.
Heavy storms descended on Turkey’s northern stretches just as rescuers reported bringing hundreds of wildfires that have killed eight people since late July under near total control in the south.
Turkey has been grappling with drought and a rapid succession of natural disasters that world scientists believe are becoming more frequent and violent because of climate change.
Heavy rains late Tuesday produced flash floods that turned streets into running rivers and sparked mudslides that buckled roads in three northern regions.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli warned on Wednesday that the area was facing “a disaster that we had not seen in 50 or 100 years”.
Rescuers were forced to evacuate a regional hospital holding 45 patients - four of them in intensive care - in the region around the coastal city of Sinop on Wednesday.
Images on television and social media showed water rising to the level of street signs in some towns.
They showed stranded villagers being plucked off rooftops by helicopter and bridges collapsing under the force of the rushing water below.
Turkey’s disaster response authority said nine people had lost their lives in the northern Kastamonu province while the search for a person who disappeared in the northern city of Bartin continued.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he held a phone call with the heads of the affected regions Thursday and promised to provide all state assistance available.
The emergencies authority said more than 1,000 rescuers were working in the region while Turkish Red Crescent teams were distributing food packages and hot meals.
Officials said more than 5,000 spaces had been allocated in student dormitories to shelter those displaced by the floods.
Three villages suffered power cuts and mobile phone services was down in parts of the affected towns.
The disaster struck less than a month after six people died in floods caused by heavy rains in the northeast Rize province.
Turkey’s mountainous Black Sea regions frequently experience heavy rains that produce flash floods and mudslides in the summer months.
Officials said that all but three of the nearly 300 fires that had been ravaging Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts since July 28 have been brought under control.