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Cablegate: Flash Flood Aftermath

VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIT #0344 2540511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADAF1AC1 WSC8964-695)
P 110511Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9169
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000344

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OSCE PGOV PHUM PREL TU
SUBJECT: FLASH FLOOD AFTERMATH

1. (U) During the evening of September 8 and the morning of
September 9, flash floods in Istanbul and surrounding areas
left 31 confirmed dead, nine missing, and damages that may
exceed USD 100 million. Affected areas were Tekirdag, a
province west of Istanbul, and the western Istanbul
neighborhoods of Ikitelli, Silivri, Catalca, Kucukcekmece,
and Bahcelievler. Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas publicly
attributed the flooding to the heaviest rains experienced in
the region in over 100 years. He said in certain areas, over
"200 kg/square meter" of rain fell during a period of two
hours. Those drowned during the flood included morning
commuters trapped in busses, truck drivers sleeping in their
trucks, and individuals swept from their gardens. There are
no known Amcit casualties. Istanbul Chamber of Commerce
President Murat Yalcintas estimated the economic damage to be
at least 150 million TL (USD 100 million). Heavier rain is
forecast in the coming days. Istanbul Consul General Sharon
Wiener called Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler to ex
press the USG's condolences.


2. (U) As often happens in Istanbul after a natural disaster,
opposition parties and pundits blamed local officials for the
tragedy. CHP Parliamentarians Group Deputy Chairman and
former Istanbul Mayoral candidate Kemal Kiliedaroglu called
on the mayor to resign. Istanbul Technical University
Professor and former advisor to the Istanbul Disease
Coordination Center (AKOM) Mikdat Kadioglu criticized local
officials for poor planning, stating that areas vulnerable to
floods should have been evacuated rather than only warned of
the risk of flooding. Those in power also complained.
Istanbul Mayor Topbas, echoed by Environment Minister Veysel
Eroglu (former Director of Istanbul's Water and Sewage
Administration), lamented the lack of adequate
infrastructure, and Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim
(former Director of Istanbul's Seaferry Administration)
protested that illegal urban development took place in a
flood zone without proper infrastructure. Yildirim said that
government officials and citizens were
equally responsible for the tragedy. Yilmaz Ozdil from
Hurriet newspaper and Gungor Mengi of Vatan both wrote
commentaries that noted the above mentioned officials, as
well as current Prime Minister Erdogan, were all serving in
Istanbul during a similar flood in the same area in 1995.
They were also running Istanbul while Istanbul experienced
large scale unregulated urbanization.


3. (SBU) Comment: The flood may trigger a familiar cycle in
the intersection of local politics and natural disasters
exacerbated by poor local government policies. In 1995, the
recently affected area experienced similar flooding. Then as
now, Istanbul officials were harshly criticized in some
quarters and improved infrastructure was demanded. However,
soon thereafter the issue evaporated from the media and the
lips of opposition politicians. Some of the local Istanbul
leaders who dealt with the 1995 flood have now risen to
national leadership positions in Ankara. As in the aftermath
of the region's deadly earthquake in 1999, significant
measures were not taken to improve public infrastructure, nor
did voters sanction local politicians in the next election.
WIENER

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