DIS­AS­TER

Cyprus Today - - FRONT PAGE - By KEREM HASAN Chief Re­porter

DEV­AS­TAT­ING floods which claimed at least three lives, flooded homes, and wrecked cars and roads have left the TRNC count­ing costs run­ning into mil­lions of TL — and ask­ing ques­tions about how much in­fras­truc­tural and plan­ning short­com­ings con­trib­uted to the dis­as­ter.

Of­fi­cials have be­gun tot­ting up the bill for dam­ages, with Lapta, Al­san­cak and Dik­men the worst-hit vil­lages.

But as a clean-up op­er­a­tion swung into ac­tion there was also uproar among politi­cians and civil groups who blamed a con­struc­tion “free for all” and in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture.

A wave of crit­i­cism of the Cik­los bend sec­tion of the newly re­vamped Le­fkoşa-Girne road, where flood­wa­ter swept a car­load of young peo­ple to their deaths, in­cluded de­mands for the res­ig­na­tion of Trans­port and Pub­lic Works Min­is­ter Tolga Atakan.

Green Ac­tion Group head Doğan Sahir called for those who drew up the project, which be­gan last year, to be held to ac­count, claim­ing “the river bed un­der the Cik­los bend was com­pletely blocked” by the road­works.

“Be­fore the road was re­fur­bished, part of the river bed run­ning near the Boğaz pic­nic area passed un­der the road in large tun­nels. The re­cent work saw the road ex­panded to in­clude a hard shoul­der which runs di­rectly over the river bed. They thought small pipe-size holes un­der­neath would be suf­fi­cient to let any wa­ter flow through it. This con­trib­uted to the catas­tro­phe.”

As video footage emerged on­line of flood­wa­ter surg­ing down the Le­fkoşa-bound car­riage­way, Mr Sahir claimed the strong cur­rent had pushed the vic­tims’ car off the road at a point where there was “no ad­e­quate crash bar­rier” and asked: “Who will ac­count for this? Those who planned the project, those who al­lowed it should face an in­quiry.”

The claims, echoed by politi­cians and so­cial me­dia com­men­ta­tors, were re­but­ted by the Trans­port and Pub­lic Works Min­istry yes­ter­day, which said in a state­ment there were 4.5km of bar­ri­ers along­side the road and

“no lack . . . at dan­ger­ous bends and on the edges of ravines”, but the fa­tal­ity was be­lieved to have hap­pened at a point where a gap had been left to al­low ac­cess to a wa­ter de­pot.

The state­ment said the re­vamped road — now re­duced in width af­ter its foun­da­tions were eroded by the flood — had not cov­ered over the river bed, adding: “No rea­son­ing would ei­ther al­low this to hap­pen or give it ap­proval.”

Girne Dis­trict Of­fi­cer Sinan Güneş, vis­it­ing Dik­men yes­ter­day, ad­mit­ted to Cyprus To­day the im­pact of the “nat­u­ral dis­as­ter . . . could have been min­imised if there had been bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture and plan­ning in pre­vi­ous years”, but in­sisted: “There would still have been da­m­age and floods be­cause of the amount of rain­fall.”

How­ever his pre­de­ces­sor, Mehmet En­vergil, coun­tered: “Had we had proper in­fra­struc­ture, roads, un­touched river beds and con­trolled con­struc­tion, but still seen the same out­come, then it could be called a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. But we know this is the ‘con­se­quence’ of a lack of vi­sion, plan­ning and law en­force­ment.

“If we now call this a dis­as­ter, we are fool­ing our­selves and won’t ad­dress the prob­lem. The so­lu­tion is sim­ple: im­ple­ment the law!

“We have dished out ti­tle deeds for river beds [and] the Girne re­gion has be­come a con­crete jun­gle. The soil is not able to ab­sorb wa­ter like be­fore. Build­ings are go­ing up, look­ing lovely on top, per­haps, but what about the ground be­low? No in­fra­struc­ture, drainage, or channels to al­low the pas­sage of wa­ter.”

Mr Sahir also cited un­heeded de­mands for “planned con­struc­tion, in­fra­struc­ture, drainage and bet­ter roads”, com­ment­ing: “Now we are pay­ing dearly. But who is tak­ing a les­son from it? When the sun comes out, our politi­cians will once again con­tinue busi­ness as usual.

“They built like there is no to­mor­row, blinded by the fact that we are hit by drought. They thought that we could never have rain like this. They were wrong.

“They al­lowed con­struc­tion in river beds, un­aware that one day, na­ture would hit us hard.”

Com­ment­ing on the flood­ing which also caused se­ri­ous da­m­age at Girne’s Vuni Palace Ho­tel for the sec­ond time in eight years, bi­ol­o­gist Hasan Sarpten is­sued a map of the route of a wa­ter course through Doğanköy and Karakum, say­ing it showed parts of the ho­tel built on the river bed and that this had con­trib­uted to the re­peat catas­tro­phe.

Mr Güneş con­firmed: “We have de­ter­mined that the car park of the ho­tel runs di­rectly over the river bed. This is­sue will be taken up [and] will re­quire se­ri­ous, de­ter­mined work.”

Cyprus Turk­ish Cham­ber of En­gi­neers and Ar­chi­tects pres­i­dent Türker Ak­taç said a map of risk ar­eas needed to be drawn up “ur­gently” in the face of global warm­ing and they were ready to help.

“One thing is for cer­tain: we need to be pre­pared for such rain­fall in the years ahead and plan ac­cord­ingly.”

While of­fi­cials toured the dis­as­ter ar­eas yes­ter­day, Lapta Mayor Mustafa Ak­tuğ said da­m­age in his area “run­ning into mil­lions of TL” in­cluded 15 homes flooded in Başpı­nar, 10 cars writ­ten off and “one road, 20 Tem­muz Sokak, [which] has com­pletely dis­ap­peared . . . leav­ing ac­cess to houses there im­pos­si­ble”.

“We can­not fix this da­m­age by our­selves. Prime Min­is­ter Tu­fan Erhür­man vis­ited us yes­ter­day and we have asked for help,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Mustafa Akıncı, ex­press­ing “deep sor­row” at the loss of life and da­m­age, said the coun­try needed to knuckle down to tack­ling un­der­ly­ing prob­lems — in­clud­ing in plan­ning and con­struc­tion — once the im­me­di­ate “wounds” had been dressed.

With his gov­ern­ment fac­ing op­po­si­tion crit­i­cism for hav­ing “formed its cri­sis desk too late”, Prime Min­is­ter Tu­fan Erhür­man yes­ter­day sidestepped a jour­nal­ist’s re­quest for con­fir­ma­tion that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be started into the Cik­los tragedy, say­ing only that “po­lice are still try­ing to find the miss­ing”. The Coun­cil of Min­is­ters met yes­ter­day but is­sued no state­ment af­ter­wards.

Me­te­o­rol­ogy De­part­ment head Raif İlker Bu­ran said no more ma­jor rain­fall was fore­cast for the com­ing four days, but added: “God knows how it will be later.”

A bull­dozer clears the rub­ble in a Lapta street af­ter it was hit by flood­ing overnight on Wed­nes­dayMore flood dis­as­ter cov­er­age on p14, 15, 16 & 17

Photo:

A he­li­copter takes part in the search for flood vic­tims over Ozanköy and Doğanköy on Thurs­dayDavid Wood­ley

A car be­long­ing to Lapta res­i­dent San­dra Popovic was smashed by a col­lapsed wall

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.