Press Centre 2009/09/16: Emergencies and Disasters


ISTANBUL — Turkey is undertaking extensive relief work following the flood disaster which killed at least 31 people, including at least two children, in the northwest of the country in the second week of September.

Istanbul and other settlements in the surrounding region were hit by some of the heaviest rainfall for 80 years. Roads were submerged and thousands of homes were flooded. Several people are still reported missing.

The livelihoods of the survivors are also at stake as the damage to properties and businesses is being counted in tens of millions of dollars.

Low-lying districts west of the city centre of Istanbul were the worst affected by the disaster, but homes also had to be evacuated and vehicles abandoned in many other settlements in the region, as well as in other parts of Turkey.

Climate change

The latest floods come as a reminder of the threats posed by global warming, both in terms of climate change and in terms of the rise in sea level. Turkey has almost 8,000 kilometres of coastline. Although climate change is expected to result in a dryer climate in most parts of Turkey, leading to water shortages, it will also increase the incidence of coastal erosion, floods and inundation. UNICEF strongly backs international efforts to combat climate change and will be staging a Children’s Climate Forum at the United Nations Climate Change Conference which is to be held in Copenhagen in December.

At the same time, the loss of life caused by the need to make urban environments safe and friendly for children and families through adequate planning, infrastructure and emergency preparedness.

Making cities safe

In addition to floods, Istanbul and the rest of northwest Turkey, as well as other regions, also suffer from large earthquakes. In 1999, over 17,000 people were killed and 38,000 buildings were destroyed by two major earthquakes occurring within the space of three months.

The settlement of high-risk areas and the poor quality of many buildings have greatly increased the fatalities during earthquakes and floods. The national and municipal authorities are carrying out programmes to reinforce key infrastructure and public buildings, especially schools, against the threat of earthquakes, but much more needs to be done.

Meanwhile, the new school year is expected to open on time in all schools. UNICEF has been in contact with the local authorities and stand ready to assist in anyway it can.

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