The downpour caused Mert River to overflow late on Tuesday, inundating nearby homes and shops and stranding cars in the Canik district of Samsun. An apartment building complex built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) was greatly affected by the deluge and many of the buildings’ ground and first floors were flooded. Search and rescue teams found the bodies of two young boys, aged 1 and 5, as well as a man and his two sons, aged 9 and 16, while searching the TOKİ complex. Samsun Governor Hüseyin Aksoy and Samsun Mayor Yusuf Ziya Yılmaz were present at the scene to observe rescue operations.
The father of the 1 and 5-year-old boys, Recep Yılmaz, said it was the first time he had witnessed such a disaster in his life. “When water began to fill the house, I took my daughter outside with me. When I returned, it was no longer possible to open the doors. My other children were no longer alive. They were gone,” the father said.
The bodies of a mother, Emine Bütüner, and her two daughters were found near a gas station in the Kirazlık neighborhood, while the body of a salesman, identified as Mehmet Yaylacıoğlu, was found in his store in the Eski Sanayi Sitesi.
The Samsun-Ordu road in the Canik district was closed to traffic for a few hours as a precaution in case of a landslide but was reopened to traffic later in the morning. A TOKİ complex was also evacuated for the same reason. Rescue workers carried several bedridden residents on their backs to safe locations.
Search and rescue efforts continue to find missing persons and save those who have been stranded due to the flooding.
The General Staff sent three search and rescue helicopters to the area and the Health Ministry sent eight paramedics and three ambulances to join the rescue efforts in Samsun. Nearby provinces such as Ankara, Amasya, Çorum, Ordu and Yozgat also sent search and rescue teams and vehicles to Samsun.
The Turkish Red Crescent announced on Wednesday that it had sent humanitarian aid to the region in the aftermath of the flood disaster in addition to establishing a crisis center there.
The flood also dragged parked automobiles to a stream bed. The Yılandere Bridge over Mert River collapsed due to the intensity of the water while the Mert-2 bridge faces risk of collapse.
Flood victims complained that they had received no warning from the authorities about the heavy rains and the possibility of flooding. Some of the flood victims said they rushed to leave their homes in panic, thinking that a bomb had exploded or a powerful earthquake had hit when the flood waters arrived.
The floods also destroyed a large area of a sown field in Samsun in addition to causing substantial damage to a newly-opened shopping mall.
Residents of the providence filled the streets when authorities warned of further flooding due to the prospects of the collapse of a nearby dam.
A statement released by the General Directorate of Meteorology on Wednesday noted that Samsun had received a total of 68.4 mm rain over the preceding 24 hours. The directorate said rains in Samsun and neighboring provinces such as Sinop and Gümüşhane are expected to continue throughout the week and warned people to be aware of the risk of floods and landslides.
The fact that floods in Samsun mostly affected the TOKİ complex has triggered criticism about whether the location of the mass housing complex was chosen without taking into consideration the risk of natural disasters. Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, a former head of TOKİ, said he learned the news about the TOKİ buildings in Samsun from the newspapers and does not think there was a mistake made in choosing the location of the complex.
“I don’t know about the incident in detail. I learned it from the newspapers. The necessary investigations will be made. … I don’t think there was a mistake either in the selection of the location or in the housing,” he said. In remarks later in the day, Bayraktar reiterated that there was no mistake made in the selection of the location of the TOKİ complex in Samsun’s Canik district. “I received the relevant information from my friends [officials at the ministry]. They investigated [the TOKİ location] and sent me the photos of the area. You can also examine those photos. Now, the Samsun governor, mayor and TOKİ officials are working at the site, but there was no mistake made regarding the housing, design or location of the project,” he said.
Bayraktar said he is very saddened by the deaths of the nine people in Samsun and offered his condolences to the victims’ families.
Voice of the People Party (HAS Party) leader Numan Kurtulmuş criticized the government on Wednesday in the wake of the disaster for having provided unsafe housing. In a written statement, Kurtulmuş said the increasing number of floods in Turkish cities in recent years cannot be explained only by their being natural disasters.
“They are also a result of poor housing,” he said.
Several houses and workplaces in the eastern province of Erzurum were also flooded on Wednesday due to sudden rains and a hail storm.
Heavy rains that began in the early hours of Wednesday turned into a hail later in the day, causing damage to roads and houses.
Some drivers had a difficult time traveling due to water on the roads.