Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister Vahit Kirişçi said that as a result of the recent deadly floods in the southeast of the country, the soil received the rainfall expected in a year within three days, pointing to the previous risk of drought in the region.
“Yes, the floods took 15 lives, but the soil got water,” Kirişçi said on a broadcast on Thursday evening, after the deadly floods that occurred after heavy rains in the quake-hit Şanlıurfa (Riha), Adıyaman (Semsûr), Malatya (Meletî), Mardin (Mêrdîn) and Diyarbakır (Amed).
Kirişçi spoke about the positive aspects of the heavy precipitation that caused floods and loss of life, and cited the increase in the occupancy rate of the Atatürk Dam on the Euphrates River on the border of Adıyaman and Şanlıurfa as an example.
“The precipitation that Şanlıurfa has received or is expected to receive over a year has reached one third in three days. This amount of precipitation inevitably causes floods and damages,” the minister said.
Kirişci’s comments, which received backlash from citizens and politicians, soon became a trending topic on social media.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the devastating floods increased to 18. While search efforts continue after the disaster in which 16 people lost their lives in Şanlıurfa and two people in Adıyaman, the Turkish General Directorate of Meteorology announced that heavy rain showers will resume on Friday afternoon and will increase in intensity in the evening in the quake-hit provinces.
For the earthquake survivors who have been living in tents since their sheltering problems have not yet been resolved after losing their homes in the earthquakes on 6 February, these heavy rains make the already harsh living conditions even more difficult.
Besides Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman, the tent city in Diyarbakır, which the government-appointed mayor set up on the banks of the Tigris River despite the warnings of experts, was also affected by the flood. Experts say that there is a lack of control and supervision in the region, and the reason for this is that tent cities are set up in the earthquake zones in an unplanned manner in park areas and empty lands and on soil.
Stating that tent cities should not be built on soil, Public Health Specialist Dr Ümit Şahin told BBC Turkish that the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) had previously warned that the tents would remain in mud with the expected rains.
“There should be action plans in these places, which are known to be earthquake zones. The places where tent cities will be established, and even their infrastructure should have been prepared in advance on a large scale,” Şahin said.