The death toll from flash floods sweeping through impoverished southeast Turkey has risen to 33 on news that 11 people, including seven children, have died in the town of Batman, officials said on Thursday.
The floods were the worst to hit the mainly Kurdish region since 1937, said Hasan Tanriseven, a senior official, and more heavy rain is predicted for Turkey in the coming days.
The floodwaters hit Batman on Wednesday evening, officials said, when rivers swollen by torrential rains swamped streets and toppled buildings, killing 11 people and triggering a major rescue operation.
Troops joined rescue services in helping to evacuate homes. Local authorities opened municipal buildings such as sports centers to house families fleeing the disaster.
At least seven people were treated for injuries in hospital. Residents were also evacuated from their homes in the town of Elazig, northwest of Batman.
Diyarbakir, the biggest city in the region, was hit by floods on Tuesday night, the water rising with dramatic speed and taking thousands of residents by surprise.
“I suddenly found myself surrounded by water while sitting at home. My children and I climbed onto the roof to save ourselves,” said housewife Emine Gungoren.
“We saw an artificial lake appear in just 15 minutes. Suddenly water and mud filled our homes,” said Hasan Atmaca, a shop owner in Diyarbakir’s Cinar district.
Local people were being evacuated from their homes by boat or trying to clear up the mess as the waters receded. Two people were still missing in the city.
A group of people protested at government offices in Cinar district, throwing stones and breaking windows, but later dispersed after calls for restraint.
The newspaper Milliyet attributed the high death toll in the southeast to shoddy construction and creaking infrastructure.
“Neglect, not fate,” its headline read above a picture of flooded streets.
Roads linking Batman to Diyarbakir and other towns were closed to traffic.
Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and some 810 miles northwest of Diyarbakir, and the Mediterranean cities of Antalya and Mersin have also suffered flooding in recent days.