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Istanbul grinds to halt with heavy rains and flooding

Istanbul suffered severe flooding after record rainfall hits the city causing disruption throughout
People stand on a bus stop bench to avoid flood water in Istanbul (Twitter)

Heavy rainfall hit Istanbul in the early hours of Tuesday causing devastating floods in the city.

After the early morning storm, Istanbul’s disaster coordination centre, AKOM, issued a warning of flood risk across the city.

Many roads, bridges, tunnels and metro stations were flooded and cars submerged in torrential downpours that followed two hours of lightning flashes across the city.

Television footage showed people swimming in the streets and being rescued by boats from streets and flooded houses.

The floods put many transport routes, including underpasses and intersections, as well as metro and bus stops, out of action.

Many commuters were forced to abandon their submerged vehicles.

The Eurasia Tunnel, which connects Istanbul’s Asian and European sides underneath the Bosphorus strait, was temporarily shut down to traffic.

Tram services within the city were suspended on many routes, and many buildings were flooded as the heavy rainfall disrupted daily life.

Forecasters have predicted that the rainfall will continue into the evening, along with strong winds.

Sea travel has also been affected by the storm.

The heavy rainfall and poor visibility also caused traffic through the Bosphorus, an important international shipping lane for oil and grain, to be suspended from 8.30am to midday, shipping agents said.

Turkish authorities also closed the Dardanelles strait to tankers longer than 200 metres after an oil tanker ran aground, but also reopened the strait at noon.

"What we are experiencing is a natural disaster," said Ahmet Arslan, the transport minister.

The prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said there were no reports of injuries.

A motorcyclist drives on a flooded road after a heavy rainfall in Istanbul (Reuters)

The Istanbul Ferry Company (IDO) was cited by broadcaster NTV as saying it had cancelled some of its cruises, while public transportation on land also slowed to a halt.

Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said citizens should be wary of using their personal cars unless necessary, and he warned of more heavy rain after 2pm.

Water Management Minister Veysel Eroglu was quoted by CNN Turk as saying the rainfall would continue until Wednesday.

Istanbul has previously encountered similarly destructive flooding.

Flash floods in 2009 led to the deaths of 31 people and cost around $70m in damage.

At the time, Eroglu described the flooding as the "worst in 500 years".

A firetruck drives on a flooded road after a heavy rainfall in Istanbul (Reuters)

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