At least 86 dead after floods and rains wreak havoc across Middle East and Asia

Heavy rains and melting snow combine to wreak havoc in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria

Borzou Daragahi
International Correspondent
Monday 01 April 2019 15:04 BST
Floods continue to deluge Iran after third week of bad weather

Floods and heavy rains across four countries have left at least 86 people dead, displaced tens of thousands, and added fresh misery to people in impoverished rural areas long suffering from drought.

Unusually heavy rains mixed with melting mountain snows and struck parched lands unable to absorb water with disastrous results in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Some 400 villages and towns across 15 Iranian provinces have been flooded following weeks of torrential downpours, said Iran’s interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli on Monday, as more rains were predicted for the next two days.

At least 44 people have been killed in heavy rains and flooding that have battered Iran, with tens of thousands of families displaced.

Another 41 people have been killed in western Afghanistan, where nearly 13,000 houses have been either partially or completely destroyed across four provinces.

“Millions of people need both immediate, life-saving humanitarian assistance, and a way out of this protracted crisis,” said Afghan Red Crescent Secretary-General Nilab Mobarez. “The floods are the latest disaster to bitterly test the resilience of people already stretched to breaking point by drought.”

The downpours and flooding have also forced villagers to evacuate their homes downstream in southeastern Iraq, which has begun making emergency preparations, and battered refugee camps in northern Syria where at least one person was reported killed.

In Iran’s southwest Lorestan province, several major dams were in danger of overflowing, and the governor warned of the imminent evacuation of families.

Hundreds of bridges have been washed away and thousands of roads blocked by the flooding, said Mr Rahmani, hindering relief efforts. More than 140 rivers across the country breached their banks and overflowed.

The floods have already become woven into Iran’s ongoing domestic and international political contentions. Among Iranians hardest hit were those in western and southwestern provinces home to already restive Kurdish and Arab minorities that have long accused the Tehran government of neglecting their regions.

Flooding strikes Iranian cities

The floods and what many have criticised as the government’s slow, ineffective response during the normally somnolent weeks following Persian New Year holidays have already sparked political strife, with supporters of the government of President Hassan Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guard sniping at each other.

Meanwhile the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, the local affiliate of the International Red Cross, warned that US sanctions on the country’s banking sector were hindering the delivery of international donations.

“There is no possibility for money transfers from other countries – including from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,” Ali Asghar Peyvandi, head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, said over the weekend.

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