Tehran, Iran – Dozens of villages and towns have been evacuated in southern Iran as authorities issued warnings for a fresh round of flooding in the regions bordering Iraq, home to a number of rivers and dams.
Continuous floods that started in March have so far claimed 70 lives, destroyed infrastructures and displaced thousands of people across Iran.
On Saturday, Iraq officially closed the Chazabeh border crossing, after Iranian authorities banned travelling and trade through the border amid flood warnings in the south Iranian province of Khuzestan.
Customs authorities of Khuzestan had called on trade companies on Wednesday to use another border crossing further south as a replacement, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
The transit road to the border passes through lands surrounding the river of Karkheh, that is expected to carry floodwaters as authorities ordered an emergency discharge in its dam to alleviate water pressure.
Khuzestan has three major rivers that pass through several villages, towns and cities, including Karoun River that cuts through the provincial capital Ahvaz.
|Iranian authorities ordered the evacuation of six cities along the Karkheh river in southwestern Khuzestan province [Mehdi Pedramkhoo/Tasnim News/AFP]
Interior Minister Abdoreza Rahmani Fazli said flooding might affect about 400,000 people in Khuzestan out of more than 4.7 million residents of the province.
Heavy showers are also expected in the northeastern provinces, including the city of Mashhad.
Stalled relief efforts
Flash floods recently displaced thousands and prompted chaos and panic in the western Lorestan Province.
The town of Poldokhtar bore the brunt of the disaster but flood waters also submerged homes in numerous other villages in the province, while destroyed infrastructures slowed emergency relief efforts.
Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abdolhashem Hassannia on Saturday said roads to 275 villages in the province were blocked.
“During the floods, 200 bridges and 400 kilometres of roads were 100 percent destroyed,” Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) cited Hassannia as saying.
Lorestan’s representative in Parliament, Mohammadreza Malekshahi, said many residents who left their homes due to the flood have no place to sleep.
“The level of the damages left by the recent floods has been unprecedented during the past century,” ILNA quoted him as saying.
|A bridge destroyed by flood is seen in Lorestan province [Khashayar Javanmardi/Tasnim News/Reuters]
Much of the disaster occurred during Iran’s New Year holiday, Nowruz, when many Iranians travel, leaving thousands standed either at home or at holiday destinations.
On March 25, flash floods killed dozens in the southern city of Shiraz, a popular destination for tourists. Heavy rainfalls caused the flood to spread through the city, move vehicles and wash away pedestrians.
Flooding also killed one person in Sar-Pol Zahab county in the western Kermanshah Province, where some residents still live in temporary cabins. They are trying to restore or re-build homes and apartments damaged by a strong earthquake that took hundreds of lives last year.
In the northern Mazandaran Province, dozens of bridges were destroyed, while in other parts hundreds of villages were submerged by flood water.
The northern floods started mid-March, hitting mostly areas in Golestan Province southeast of the Caspian Sea.
Reports indicate that 95 out of 800 villages hit by the flood in Golestan still have not recovered from the flood.
Iran floods: US sanctions impede rescue efforts
The Meteorological Organization forecasts more rainfalls in the northern region.
Many schools in Golestan are yet to open, even though national holidays ended on Friday.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has slammed the US over sanctions he said were blocking international aid and relief efforts.
The US campaign of so-called maximum pressure on Iran “is impeding aid efforts by #IranianRedCrescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods,” he wrote in a tweet.
“Blocked equipment includes relief choppers: This isn’t just economic warfare; it’s economic TERRORISM,” he added.
Head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society Ali Asghar Peyvandi also criticised the US for blocking the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication SWIFT.
“We used to a number of bank accounts connected to SWIFT, which we used for receiving international aid. But at the moment these accounts are subject to sanctions,” Iranian Students News Agency quoted him as saying.
“It’s impossible to transfer cash from other countries as well as the International Federation of [Red Cross and] Red Crescent Societies,” he said.