Tragic December Floods

As everyone should know, an underwater earthquake created waves causing massive flooding to several countries bordering the Indian Ocean. It is very hard to imagine how powerful the earth is and how much grief it can cause. My thoughts go out to all affected.

Hearing about the latest flooding gave me flashbacks to a far more minor but personal flooding experience 3 years ago in Mersin. Following is the account (unedited) I wrote in an email sent on the 21st of December 2001:

For about 3 ½ weeks from November 19 onwards Mersin experienced rain day-in day-out. I don’t know how much fell during this period but anything from 300-500mm even 1000mm would not be unrealistic. This the wettest Mersin has been for ever, if not, a very long time. For the first time in a couple of years I used an umbrella. I didn’t even remember how to open one up; I soon learnt very quickly though.

The results of this rain were two floods, on Sunday December 2nd and on the following Friday (7th). An article about the first flood is at the bottom of this newsletter. I did not suffer much and my apartment and work are okay. As always, it was the poor people who bore the brunt.

On Sunday afternoon/evening I was cooking dinner for my boss’s family. After dinner Ahmet (my boss) must have received a phone call, because down he and a friend went to rescue his two cars from the underground car park. The water was above the exhaust pipe of the Mercedes and he was very lucky to get the two cars out of the car park. 10 minutes later and the cars would be stuck. As well as the car park, the apartment block entrances were flooded. To compound things (and make the atmosphere romantic with candles according to one of the children) the electricity cutout and the back-up generator for the apartment block did not work, although an adjacent block in the same complex did have power.

For the work office I was fearing the worst as it was across the road from a river and all my photos and negatives were in a bag on the floor adjacent to my desk. As well as this, most of the computer hard drives were on or near the ground. Luckily the river did not overflow and the office was safe. The river flowed a million times faster than in Summer (my very scientific guess) and much of the riverbank was washed away, including several park benches.

After spending Sunday night at my boss’s and then going to work the next day I eventually got home Monday night. On Tuesday morning whilst waiting outside my apartment complex for the bus to work I saw snow on the mountains in the distance. It was great to see snow again, although I still have not handled it in Turkey.

The second flood occurred the following Friday. There were cars stuck in the flood waters just West of Denizhan 2 (my complex) and it was quite a sight watching the vehicles try to get through the waters. In the second flood several of the “cities” (apartment complexes) were cut off from the rest of civilisation. The river in front of work destroyed more river bank and threatened to topple a gum tree onto the road. When I left that day for Adana (on the way to the AIESEC conference in Bursa) it was still raining and the water was still rising.

Here is a Turkish Daily News article on the same Mersin floods:

04 December 2001

Floods kill three in Mersin, destroy hundreds of homes, businesses

Governor Tig: We are on alert; 100 kg (sic) of rain in last 24 hours; reports it will last another nine days

The torrential rain that had paralyzed Icel/Mersin stopped in the early hours of Monday morning. Three people were killed as floods drenched hundreds of homes and businesses. The body of a child was found drowned early Monday morning in the ground floor of a home in the southern Mediterranean city of Mersin, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Earlier, a man drowned as rains beat down for the fifth consecutive day in Mersin while a woman died after being electrocuted by a power line pulled down by the floods, Anatolia said.

Waters swept away roads, a bridge and a highway and overturned vehicles, carrying some into the sea. Heavy flooding was also reported in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya and in the Aegean port city of Izmir.

With this the flood waters began to subside. Icel/Mersin Governor Akif Tig has said they are still suffering under torrential rain and that they are on a high state of alert in the province. In a news statement, Governor Tig said that over 100 kg of rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours and that all the drainage gulleys in the city center were maxed out with water now flooding out onto the roads resulting in many vehicles, including service and police ones, being stranded.

Governor Tig said that they were unable to reach the excavators and other plant in the Rural Affairs Provincial Directorate vehicle park and put them to use, and that they had requested plant to be sent in from Adana. Houses and businessed in a large proportion of the city have been hit by floodwaters. The Mezitli road junction subsided when the soil underneath was washed away. Surrounding buildings have been evacuated for fear of collapse. Several bridges have collapsed and many trees and pylons have been brought down.

Weather forecasters say the rain and storm-force winds will last another nine days. In Erdemli, the drinking water and sewage water systems have mixed. Municipal authorities say there will be no drinking water for the next couple of days.

Much further westwards along the coast in Izmir, 90 kmh (55mph) winds have blown down trees and power lines. Meteorological Office officials say the winds, which are gusting at up to 100 kmh (62 mph) are going to last another day.

Ankara – Turkish Daily News