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Nationwide Flood Alert In Iran As Emergency Declared In Oil-Producing Province

A motorboat carrying volunteers in Aq Qala in northern Iran during flood. A man is showing others he is bringing bread. March 27, 2019
A motorboat carrying volunteers in Aq Qala in northern Iran during flood. A man is showing others he is bringing bread. March 27, 2019

Iran’s Meteorological Organization (IMRO) has issued a nationwide alert expecting heavy rains in the next three days and the governor of the oil-rich Khuzestan province has declared an emergency situation over more floods.

IMRO has announced that heavy rains from March 31 to April 2 will inundate western, central and northern Iran.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazl told the nation on Saturday that as the new storm front moves in the government has put all provinces on alert, but the situation of oil-rich Khuzestan in southwest, Lorestan in west-central and Golestan in the north are critical.

All three provinces have already suffered heavy flooding. Many areas in Golestan are still under water as authorities seem to have failed to open natural routes for the water to reach the Caspian Sea.

Rahmani Fazl also said that 24 provinces experienced floods in the last ten days and the police announced that 28 major roads are still closed due to flooding.

The most critical situation seems to be in Khuzestan where two major dams are near full capacity and three days of more rains can push water over the dams. The Dez Dam is a significant structure, built by American companies in the 1960s, with a height of 352 meters or 1,164 feet.

Fourteen villages have been evacuated from the vicinity of the dams and 36 more will be evacuated on March 31, as the maximum quantity of water is released from the dams, flooding existing rivers.

A crisis committee made of government officials, parliamentarians and military commanders met on March 30. The governors of Golestan and Khuzestan gave updates to the committee about the emergency situation in their provinces.

Evacuations are also underway in other provinces. The governor of Lorestan announced that 18,000 residents of Dorood and 10,000 people from villages near a dam will be evacuated. More floods are also threatening other towns and cities in the province, which are already in emergency situation.

Emergency situation being announced by a loudspeaker on a truck in Dorood.

The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps visited Golestan and ordered more demolition of a railroad, which has been built along a corridor adjacent to the Caspian Sea, blocking the natural route for fold waters.

President Hassan Rouhani had earlier mocked the effort of the military to blow up sections of the railroad to relieve lingering flood waters in urban areas.

The revolutionary guards were involved in the construction of the railroad, apparently with no planning for flood situations.

Waters have not subsided in Golestan province, as this video tweeted by a citizen journalist is said to be from March 30.

In Ilam in western Iran, floods exposed mines and unexploded mortar shells from the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and experts are now trying to de-mine the affected areas.

So far, 42-45 people have lost their lives in the floods, although some say the number can be higher than official figures.

Some local officials are already blaming the extent of the destruction partly on “intervention in nature”. They say that natural flood paths have been blocked over the years with wrong road and building construction. The governmet's official news outlet IRNA says that investigations have started.

On social; media some also blame the destruction of forests as a reason for the force of flash floods hitting villages and towns.

Yashar Soltani, a journalist tweeted that according to a report by Iran’s Inspector General, 70 percent of forests in Golestan province are controlled by “influential companies and organizations”. This alludes to commercial ventures often set up by the military, religious foundations or individuals linked with these powerful circles.

Based on the report, religious foundations control 48,000 hectares of forests while the military controls another 20,000.Government agencies would not be able to enforce rules and regulations over such powerful entities, which try to maximize profits.