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Minister’s controversial remarks on flash floods in Turkey’s earthquake zone draw ire

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Vahit Kirişçi, Turkey’s minister of agriculture and forestry, has drawn criticism from opposition politicians and celebrities with controversial comments on the aftermath of recent flash floods that affected the country’s quake-hit southeast and killed 18 people, local media reported.

The floods claimed the lives of 18 people living in tents and container housing set up across the southeast earlier this week.

Hundreds of thousands of survivors were moved into tents and container homes after the country was hit by last month’s 7.8 and 7.5-magnitude quakes, which killed more than 48,000 people across the 11-province disaster region.

Commenting on the flash floods in Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman provinces, Kirişçi on Thursday said during a program on Habertürk TV that there was the risk of drought in Turkey and that the land got the water it needed from the heavy rains.

“On the one hand, [the floods] took 15 lives [as of Thursday], while on the other hand, the land got water. The water level in Atatürk Dam [in Adıyaman] has increased by 300,000 cubic meters. This is important,” the minister said.

Stating that rainfall in the region has been erratic, Kirişçi added, “Of course, we wouldn’t want any flooding. Of course, we don’t want this much rain in three days.”

Following the development, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Adana MP Ayhan Barut called on Kirişçi to resign, saying the minister’s statements were “beyond serious.”

“We will never, ever, forget these serious words that hurt the conscience of society, all of us. We call on Vahit Kirişçi, the source of these heartbreaking words … to resign …” Barut said in a video released on Twitter.

“May God take care of our minds. … We are at a point where humanity has collapsed. … Shame [on you] Kirişçi,” Cemal Enginyurt, deputy chairman of the opposition Democrat Party (DP), tweeted.

Actor and writer Yekta Kopan also criticized the minister for his comments on the floods and told him to “have some humanity.”

“If not, have a little conscience. If not, be smart enough to shut up,” Kopan added.

Officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been accused of painting a pretty picture of the latest disasters that hit the country and exposed the government’s neglect and responsibility in them as AKP leader and president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing the toughest election in his 20-year rule in May.

Opinion surveys show Erdoğan falling behind CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint presidential candidate of an opposition alliance of six parties.

Erdoğan is being held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis of his time in office and a poor response to twin earthquakes that killed tens of thousands and left millions homeless in the country’s south last month, in addition to the recent flash floods.

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