The scene was one of utter devastation in Istanbul’s industrial İkitelli district, which was hit hard by torrential rain on Wednesday. The contents of large corporate offices, factories and people’s homes lay on the streets all meshed into one, covered in mud and debris, but this was only the material side of the human suffering that was reflected in 23 dead and eight missing in the area.
What is normally an orderly functioning industrial district in Turkey’s largest city was turned upside down by 25 centimeters per square meter of rainfall. The highway that runs through the district was transformed into a fast-flowing river, which took with it the valuable contents of many factory depots and offices.
Yilmaz Özdemir, a worker for Evkur, one of Turkey’s leading suppliers for home goods and electronics, told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the majority of the home goods depot, which was situated on the bottom floor of the building, was totally wiped out. “The contents can be found in neighboring districts miles away and despite police intervention, people have taken to the streets like wolves and are stealing the newly packaged goods,” Özdemir said.
The phone lines of some Vodafone subscribers went down on Wednesday as a result of the floods. In a written statement, Vodafone Turkey said the data center located in Istanbul’s İkitelli region was flooded and employees there were evacuated from the building early Wednesday. They said that efforts were being made to re-establish the lines by the end of the day.
Smaller businesses in the area were also caught in the fatal flooding. Owner of Bizim Market, Kemal Demirci, said his son woke him up at 6 a.m. after discovering that the contents of his small super market was on the streets. “Hotels and large businesses in this area will be saved by insurance. They are fortunate; the setback I will endure from this flood could take up to six months to recover,” Demirci told the Daily News while trying to cover his market in waterproof sheets as a precaution against rumors of further rain. Demirci said many of his products had been carried so far that they were now difficult to trace, especially as thieves circulating the area got their hands on whatever they could find.
Many vehicles were either washed away or destroyed in the flooding. Many drivers had to abandon their cars in the middle of the roads after being faced with sudden outbursts of water. Seven women died in the Bağcılar neighborhood just outside of İkitelli while trying to evacuate their work service bus in the flood. Many long-distance truck drivers were woken by the floods during an overnight break at the Orhaş Ihrachat Depot. One driver said, “We were lucky we escaped, but at the time we did not know where the water came from. I do not think I have ever seen a force of water this strong.”
People traveling from outside the area were also affected by the incident. Fedai İlgün, assistant coordinator of 5 Yildiz meat products, abandoned his car on the way to a meeting at Metro cash and carry. “The scene was devastating, it would make you cry,” Ilgün told the Daily News, adding that large families had taken to the streets with carrier bags full of the possessions they could save. “Children were playing in the mud and the dirt,” Ilgün said. “No one was warning them that they could contract a disease from the dirty water. It was heart wrenching.”
Helicopters continued to circulate the area looking for missing people and rescuing survivors of the flash floods. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality also put into place an extensive clean up scheme.