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
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