Istanbul cleans up while waiting for new rain

ISTANBUL – At a flooded clothes store a large group of women and children are scrambling in the mud: they are collecting clothes from it, push them into big plastic bags and take them away in small wheelbarrows. Around the corner the streets are full of wet muddy furniture, curtains and domestic appliances, the whole day people have been shovelling water out of their houses. Pumps work on full capacity. Istanbul is cleaning up. And waiting for new rain that is predicted to come on Friday.

The highway, where on Wednesday cars and minibuses were floating by at full speed, is dry again, but still closed: areas of asphalt came loose and in places there is still too much mud to be cleaned away. In the residential areas near the highway only the lowest streets are affected: in one street it’s chaos, in the next everything is clean like before.
Parts of the the suburb Kucukcekmece are fairly badly damaged and the pain of the inhabitants is that they are not insured for all their lost goods. Emine Acar (37): ‘All we can do is carry what is beyond repair outside and hope the municipality will come and take it away quickly.. If they don’t, it might be floating through the streets tomorrow, because much more rain is forecast.’ So why is she cleaning up if more rain is on the way? ‘We want to close the house up after this and then we will go up to sleep at the neighbours’. We hope everything won’t get too muddy again.’

In another area people are less badly off: they have more money, a house of their own and are insured. But it all looks just as sad: mud lines on the wall that indicate how high the water rose, muddy furniture, people sweeping the water from their houses. Burhanettin Yonar (43) couldn’t believe his eyes: one moment the house was still dry, half an hour later is was two meters under. They ran upstairs and are now waiting for the insurance company to assess the damage.
And the municipality, what are they doing? The local municipality is visible everywhere: they carry the dirty wet furnitue away, and big boxes of sandwiches are brought in to share among both inhabitants and municipal cleaners. Anyone who wants to can spend the night in a municipal shelter, but there seems to be not much interest in that. Gülver Yücel (43) who is standing in front of her house with her husband Nürettin, looking at the mess: ‘I’m staying at home. We sleep upstairs where it’s safe, and wait for what’s coming.’

Today in different areas of the city dozens of people were arrested for looting flooded shops and breaking open stranded cars. In a shop in Kucukcekmece not a single piece of clothing is clean: everything is lying among broken cupboards, half inside and half outside the shop and underneath a thick layer of mud. Women and children are in it up to their ankles looking for what can still be used. ‘Is my family poor?’, asks Serda (17). ‘No,we are not poor, but not rich either. That’s why we are taking these things: they are not torn, just dirty. After washing them we can use them.’ And her house? ‘No problem, we live on the third floor. That’s why I have time now to collect clothes here.’

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