A flood disaster took place on Tuesday in Arakli district of Turkey’s north-eastern province of Trabzon, leaving seven people dead and several others injured.
Turkish officials have disagreed on the cause of the flash flood, with one saying that it was a natural disaster following heavy rainfall, and another pointing to a defective pipe at a hydroelectric power plant (HES) in the region.
Rescue operations, with the assistance of approximately 280 people, are continuing in search of three missing people, according to the reports by officials.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli went to the town following the incident late on Tuesday.
The two ministers denied allegations that the flood was caused by a faulty water pipe at the hydroelectric power plant, claiming that the pipe exploded due to the flood and landslide following heavy rainfall.
“[When] two landslides, that were triggered by rock breaking away from the hill, intersected at one point, [they turned into] a flood. The HES is further down from where the incident [landslide and flood] occurred,” Soylu told reporters.
Pakdemirli echoed Soylu, saying, “The HES is not the reason for the flood, but the victim of it, as the HES is further down. In other words, it is a completely natural phenomenon.”
Contrary to the remarks by the two ministers, the district mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Cebi, insisted it was caused by a problem in the pipe.
“In the same area, there were flood disasters in the past. It rained heavily again this time. Together with a fault in the pipe, the disaster occurred,” said the mayor.
A local villager who survived the disaster, Halim Kose, agreed with the mayor, claiming that it was the sixth disaster in the neighborhood, and no measure had been taken prior to the incident to avoid the disaster.
“They [officials to repair] came [following the incidents], but could not carry out the required measures to repair the pipe. [To take measures], do people first have to die? Locals have been let down. They don’t have anyone to report problems to. No preventative or reparative measures have been taken here,” said the resident.
Ismail Ustaoglu, the Trabzon governor, has warned local people of the landslide risks as heavy rainfall is forecasted to continue, and has urged them to stay away from the affected neighborhoods.
The HESs, notably the ones in Turkey’s Black Sea region, have long been at the center of criticism due to their negative environmental impact, as well as the potential danger in terms of incidents such as floods, landslides, etc.
Critics, including environmentalists, repeatedly said that a number of HESs have been constructed by the AKP government without considering ecological determinants.