Iran expands evacuations as rains worsen floods

Iran expands evacuations as rains worsen floods... 06/04/2019 History

Keywords:#Dubai, #Hassan_Rouhani, #IRNA, #Iran, #Iranian, #Khuzestan, #Lorestan,, #President, #Reuters, #Revolutionary_Guards, #Rouhani, #Saturday, #Shariati, #Susangerd

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran moved on Saturday to evacuate more towns and villages threatened by floods after continued rain in the southwest of the country, state television reported, as the nationwide toll from the flooding reached 70.
Many residents of Susangerd, with a population of about 50,000, and five other communities in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan were being moved to safer areas as officials released water from major dams, state TV reported.
"An evacuation order has been issued and we are recommending women and children to leave but we are asking the men and youth to stay and help us build floodwalls so we can keep the water out of these cities," the provincial governor, Gholamreza Shariati, told state TV.
"The inflow into the Karkheh river dam has been high ... and officials have had to release more water as the dam was approaching its full capacity," Shariati said, adding the flooding was the worst in 70 years.
Rains were expected to end in Khuzestan by Monday, state TV said.
In the neighboring Lorestan province, seven villages threatened by landslides were to be evacuated, state TV said.
At least 70 people have been killed, the head of the country's emergency services, Pirhossein Koulivand, told the state news agency IRNA.
About 1,900 cities and villages have been affected by floods after exceptionally heavy rains since March 19.
The disaster has left aid agencies struggling to cope and seen 86,000 people moved to emergency shelters.
The government has told citizens, and especially flood-affected farmers, that all losses will be compensated.
Iran's state budget is already stretched under U.S. sanctions on energy and banking sectors that have halved its oil exports and restricted access to some revenues abroad.
President Hassan Rouhani, whom critics have accused of mismanaging the response to the disaster, said on Wednesday the sanctions were also hampering aid efforts.
As waters continue to submerge villages, the government said it had deployed more mobile medical units to the southern provinces. Around 1,000 people have been airlifted by emergency helicopters to safety in recent days.
The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards reiterated the armed forces "were using all their power" to minimize the damage in Khuzestan. Iranian drilling companies and other energy firms have been assisting rescue efforts in flooded areas, using pumps to remove water.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Mark Potter)
---Iran moved on Saturday to evacuate more towns and villages threatened by floods after continued rain in the southwest of the country, state television reported, as the nationwide toll from the flooding reached 70. ---
From mid-March to April 2019 widespread flash flooding affected large parts of Iran, most severely in Golestan, Fars, Khuzestan, Lorestan, and other provinces. Iran has been hit by three major waves of rain and flooding over the course of two weeks which led to flooding in at least 26 of Iran's 31 provinces and at least 70 people died nationwide as of 6 April, according to the officials. The first wave of rain began on 17 March, leading to flooding in two northern provinces, Golestan and Mazandaran with the former province receiving as much as 70 percent of its average annual rainfall in single day. Several large dams have been overflowed, particularly in Khuzestan and Golestan, therefore many villages and several cities have been evacuated. About 1,900 cities and villages across country have been damaged by severe floods as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to water and agriculture infrastructure. 78 roads were blocked and the reliability of 84 bridges was questioned.

Severity of the floods was greatly increased by converting flood routes and dry river beds for urban development without providing proper drainage infrastructure. According to an Iranian official, due to record rainfalls, more than 140 rivers have burst their banks and about 409 landslides have happened in the country. The impact of the floods was heightened because of the Nowruz holiday; many Iranians were travelling and many deaths occurred due to flash flooding on roads and highways. Around 12,000 km of roads were damaged by the flooding, about 36% of Iran's national road network. The floods caused at least $2.2 billion (2019 USD) in damages, mostly due to losses in the agricultural industry. Further, according to Red Crescent, two million people are in need of humanitarian aid due to the devastating floods.

Civil and armed forces have been mobilized since 24 March after the command of Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme leader, and vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, along with several ministers as well as army commanders have traveled to the areas affected by floods. However, the lack of government aid and delayed response at the first days quickly heightened political tensions throughout the nation. Many Iranians including politicians took to social media platforms to criticize the handling of the floods by the government, specifically President Hassan Rouhani....

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