Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:04 UK

Turkish flood death toll rises


Turkey floods clean-up under way

The death toll following huge floods that swept through Istanbul and north-western Turkey has risen to at least 31 people, with others still missing.

Authorities have begun the clear-up, while teams are still searching for the missing, after what the prime minister called the "disaster of the century".

The rain - described as the heaviest in 80 years - has abated, but more is expected in the coming days.

The truth about how the victims perished has begun to emerge.

Thirteen truck drivers were reported to have been killed as a sudden tide of water and mud swept through the lorry park where they were sleeping.

"We heard a crashing sound and then saw the waters coming down carrying cars and debris," Nuri Bitken, a 42-year-old night guard at a the lorry park, told the Reuters news agency.

There are hundreds of damaged cars everywhere. The water is so high that when you look at them from the balcony they seem like boats swimming on the water
Erdi Anil Karaca, Istanbul resident

"We tried to wake up those who were still asleep in the trucks but some didn't make it. The dead had to be retrieved by boats."

Earth movers began lifting the debris at the scene on Thursday, where trailers had been tipped on their side and left in heaps like litter washed up on shore.

A family of five - a man, his wife and three daughters - were all found dead in the mud that swept through their farm in Tekirdag, outside Istanbul.

Meanwhile a minibus in Bagcilar, a working-class suburb of Istanbul, was found to contain the bodies of seven women drowned as they travelled to work at a textile factory.

Poor drainage

The flooding came suddenly following very heavy rain on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday.

Lorries swept up by Turkish floods
Lorries were swept up and dumped like litter

Main roads were suddenly submerged - some under several feet of water. Pictures showed people sitting on top of buses, while cars barely poked above the surface.

Rescuers toured the scene in boats, while others were helped from their stranded vehicles with the help of planks or ladders stretched to a safe place, while helicopters plucked people from the roofs of buildings.

The worst flooding was in low-lying areas in the western (European) part of the city straddling the Bosphorus Strait, which divides Europe from Asia.

That part of the city is known to suffer from poor drainage.

However other parts of the city, including the historic tourist area of Sultanahmet, were largely unscathed.

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