Floods Leave Trail of Disaster in 9 Provinces

Floods Leave Trail of  Disaster in 9 ProvincesFloods Leave Trail of  Disaster in 9 Provinces

Heavy rains that started on Wednesday across 126 of Iran's western and southwestern cities resulted in flash floods killing at least four people as one child was reported missing by Friday evening. Thousands were evacuated.

A train also derailed due to heavy rainfall in the western province of Lorestan following which Iran's railway authority canceled all trains scheduled for Friday to and from the southern regions, IRNA reported.

Flash floods washed away cars and blocked roads between several cities and villages in nine western and southwestern provinces including Lorestan, Ilam, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kordestan and Khuzestan. A floating bridge over the Dez River in southwestern city of Dezful was also washed away. Rescue operations by the Iranian Red Crescent Society are underway.

In a phone call to First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, President Hassan Rouhani called for the "mobilization of all resources" to help areas hit by the rare flooding. The president made the call on Thursday from Istanbul, Turkey, where he is attending the OIC Summit.

The country's Crisis Management Coordination Council held an emergency meeting chaired by Jahangiri Thursday afternoon to study the situation in affected areas, news outlets reported.

The floods were most severe along Karun River and Dez Dam in Khuzestan Province with discharges greater than 8,000 cubic meters per second deemed as "unprecedented" by Deputy Energy Minister Alireza Daemi.

Energy Minister Hamidreza Chitchian along with a delegation visited the affected areas on Thursday where heavy rainfall and flooding "40 times the normal amount" had overwhelmed the dam and surrounding regions.

Officials in Lorestan Province reported that the main drinking water pipeline in Pol-e Dokhtar city was damaged by the downpour. Roads to 80 villages in the province were also cut off by the rains.

State TV showed footage in which major roadways had been washed away with homes and streets inundated. Unseen volumes of water were shown gushing out from rivers with several dams bursting their banks in several cities. Some scenes on TV were as if a major earthquake or tsunami had struck some of the towns and cities.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli late Thursday urged the people to stay away from the affected areas and appealed to those living near rivers and dams to move to safer areas at least for 24 hours and up until the waters recede.  

Several thousand people were given emergency services by the relief teams and moved to safer zones. Though the extent of the damage was not clear by Friday afternoon, it is believed that material losses would be very high including the cost of returning the people back to normal life and rebuilding their homes.

Relief and Rescue

The head of Tehran Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization Ahmad Sadeghi, on Friday also warned about heavy rainfall and the chances of flooding along river banks, and cautioned people to stay away from areas close to riverbanks, ISNA reported.

Up to 5,600 people have been rescued so far from the floods and over 2,500 among more than 70,000 affected were given emergency shelter, according to Nasser Charkhsaz, Head of IRCS Relief and Rescue Organization.

The American website, which has its own popular mobile app, had earlier warned that the slow-moving storm system would lead to flash flooding across the Middle East through Thursday. The threat for flooding would extend from Iraq and western Iran into Saudi Arabia and Yemen as the wet and windy weather continues.

The storm tracked across the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week moved across the Middle East over the week-end sparking widespread thunderstorms across the region.

While rounds of rain and thunderstorms began early in the week, the most significant risk for flooding was on forecast for Thursday with heavy rain triggering flash flooding across several areas.

The Iran Meteorological Organization warned on Friday that torrential rains would continue till Saturday morning in 14 provinces of Bushehr, Kohkilouyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Fars, Qazvin, Alborz, Tehran, North Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, Lorestan, Ilam, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kordestan, Khuzestan, and Semnan.

"The threat of flooding is still highly imminent in 12 of those provinces, Khuzestan, Lorestan, and Ilam in particular," Charkhsaz said. All relief and rescue teams are fully prepared and on standby.

Losses Last Fall

Last October too, flash floods, triggered by heavy rainfall killed six people in two western provinces, Ilam and Lorestan, and left several injured.

An estimated 20,000 homes and 1,000 vehicles were damaged in the two provinces. The floods also affected provinces neighboring Lorestan damaging roads, power lines and communication facilities as well as infrastructure in many districts.

Flash floods also hit East Azarbaijan, , Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Khuzestan.

The devastating floods in Lorestan and its neighboring provinces caused more than $60 million in damage, including $15 million in agricultural losses. In November, head of the Crisis Management Organization (CMO) Esmael Najjar announced that early flood warning systems would be installed in areas prone to natural disasters, including Tehran’s river valleys that are highly vulnerable to flooding.

He said $3 million has been allocated to provide new equipment for Iran’s Meteorological Organization (IMO). “Besides installation of weather equipment for early warning, public awareness in environment protection should improve and constructions in the vicinity of rivers banned.”