Turkish gov't embarks on fundraising campaign for victims of floods, wildfires

A presidential decree signed by Erdoğan has launched a fundraising campaign to help those affected by the recent wildfires and flash floods in Turkey, one week after the authorities launched a probe into the “Help Turkey” social media campaign that called for the international community to provide assistance to the country's fight against wildfires.

Duvar English

The Turkish government is preparing to launch a fundraising campaign to help victims of flooding and forest fires. A presidential decree detailing the campaign was published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 13.

The campaign will raise funds for “disaster victims who have sustained a harm in fire disasters, especially in the provinces on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, and flood disasters that occurred in several regions of our country as well as those who will sustain a harm in possible future disasters of fires and floods,” read the decree, signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It assigned the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) to coordinate the campaign.

In this regard, AFAD will share with the public the bank account details for the funds to be transferred. The decree also said that the funds that will be collected by the governor's offices, municipalities and other public institutions will go into these bank accounts.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said that the campaign prevents the municipalities from collecting cash aid for disaster-hit victims. 

"What this campaign means is this: The municipalities have been deprived of their authority to collect and distribute cash aid. So, Erdoğan, even at the disaster-hit places, is after partisanship. Because the greed of the rulership has blindfolded him," CHP MP Seyit Torun said on Aug. 13.  

The government's move came after the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office initiated a probe into social media posts that asked for foreign help in the face of the devastating forest fires. 

Over 2.6 million tweets were shared with the hashtag "Help Turkey" following the fires mainly due to desperation and anger since the government failed to put them out. 

According to the prosecutor's office, some social media accounts and media outlets "tried to create panic, fear and concern among the public" by using the hashtag. It also claimed that some accounts tried to humiliate the Turkish state and the government. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its trolls on Twitter were quick to brand the people's cry for help as an attempt to make the country look weak. 

Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun used the hashtag "Strong Türkiye" to counter those asking for help, but the number of tweets shared remained significantly less. 

Death toll from flash floods rises to 27

Meanwhile, the death toll from the flash floods which swept through towns in the Turkish Black Sea region increased to 27 people as of Aug. 13, AFAD said, in the second natural disaster to strike Turkey this month.

The floods brought chaos to northern provinces just as authorities were declaring wildfires that raged through southern coastal regions for two weeks had been brought under control.

Twenty-five people died as a result of the floods in the province of Kastamonu and another two people died in Sinop, AFAD said.

Searches continued for a missing person in the province of Bartin.

The floods and the fires, which killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest, struck in the same week that a U.N. panel said that global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control and that extreme weather would become more severe.

More than 1,700 people were evacuated from affected areas, some with the help of helicopters and boats, AFAD said.