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Evacuations In Iran's Oil-Producing Province As Dams Reach Full Capacity

An aerial view of large swaths of land flooded in Iran's oil-producing Khuzestan province. April 5-6, 2019

On Saturday April 6, Iran's oil-producing Khuzestan province was scrambling to evacuate many towns and villages as more rains and waters let out of dams threatened hundreds of thousands of people.

Floods in Iran have killed 70 people since March 19, the head of the emergency services said on Friday according to the official IRNA News Agency.

"The floods also injured 791 persons of which 45 are still hospitalized," Pir Hossein Koolivand told IRNA.

Moreover, nearly half a million people are threatened by floods in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, the Islamic Republic' Ministry of Interior has warned.

The governors of five provinces have been ordered to be on alert for helping people if fresh floods hit Khuzestan, Abdulreza Rahmani Fazli told local news outlets. New rains are falling in western parts of the country, which can worsen the already critical situation.

Widespread criticism of the authorities continue for lack of emergency preparations and disorganized relief work. Some Iranians say the issue is not "disaster management" but "management disaster".

During the past few days, there have been warnings that Khuzestan's two major dams, Dez and Kharkheh might overflow if the current rains lead to more floods.

Many dams in Khuzestan in recent days have already been partially drained and inundated hectares of agricultural lands to minimize the risk of disaster.

It was announced on Saturday that nine towns and several villages will be evacuated in Khuzestan, as authorities increased the water outflow from the Karkheh dam to keep it safe.

Large swaths of land inundated in the path of maximum outflow released from Dez Dam.

Meanwhile, overflowing rivers across the province have forced people to evacuate tens of villages.

Several villages are currently surrounded by water after Dez River overflowed and the only way to provide foodstuff, medicine and drinking water for their residents is through the air.

In the meantime, 110 villages threatened by possible flash-floods have been evacuated in the province.

Furthermore, many roads have been flooded to the extent that rescue forces use boats for reaching the marooned people.

While the rescue operations are underway, there have been reports on sporadic clashes between desperate flood-stricken people and security forces.

Footage and images circulated on social media show violent clashes mainly occurred in the villages in Dasht-e Azadegan and the city of Soussangerd.

According to a report, published on Thursday, April 4, by a human rights organization, Abdolrahman Boroumand Foundation, a farmer, Abboud Jalizi died in hospital hours after a clash with the security forces.

Nevertheless, the spokesman of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Ramazan Sharif, denied on Wednesday that there had been clashes between the flood-stricken people and IRGC's Special Units in Khuzestan.

A video emerged showing clashes between security forces and residents in Soussangerd, Khuzestan, in which a farmer was injured and later died. Radio Farda cannot verify the video is from the particular incident.

In neighboring province, Lorestan, deputy head of Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) for Relief and Rescue Operations Organization, Shahin Fathi, told reporters late on Friday that given the scale of the affected areas and lack of access to the sites, 40 operation teams were called on for help from other provinces to supply relief aid to the regions.

While the IRGC and President Rouhani's administration are under attack for their "listlessness" in relief operations, the Chief Commander of the IRGC's extraterritorial military activities, Qassem Soleimani emerged on Friday to promise assistance to the flood-stricken people across the country.

Soleimani promised to provide special luxury tents to flood victims, that are usually used for pilgrims going to Shiite holy sites in Iraq.

Social media users have repeatedly criticized the Islamic Republic authorities for treating the "pilgrim-tourists" in luxurious "mokeb" tents with expensive foods and sodas, but ignoring the desperate people in the flood-hit area who are forced to live in the open, and in the cold weather without access to proper food and drink.

In another development on Friday, members of the United Nations office in Tehran met with senior Iranian government officials, coordinating further rescue measures to the flood-hit people across the country, MNA reported.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran, Ugochi Daniels, twitted on Friday that during the meeting, the two sides discussed the concrete humanitarian actions so far taken by the UN and its affiliated bodies regarding the victims of massive flash floods in Iran.