Iran flood death toll climbs to 62

Iran flood death toll climbs to 62
A chronic shortage of rescue helicopters in Iran, due to US sanctions, has curtailed its capacity for rescue operations as extreme flooding continues to swamp swathes of the country.
3 min read
03 April, 2019
A flood-hit village in Golestan Province in northern Iran [Getty]
The death toll from major floods inundating much of Iran over the past 15 days has risen to 62, the head of the Iranian Legal Medicine Organisation told local media on Wednesday.

Ahmad Shojaee told the semi-official Fars news agency the southern province of Fars has been hit the hardest with 21 dead.

The western province of Lorestan and the northern province of Golestan followed with 14 and 8 dead respectively, he said.

Flood-related deaths have been reported in 11 out of Iran's 31 provinces, Shojaee added.

The semi-official ISNA news agency said the current toll was a tally of the victims whose bodies have been transferred to coroner offices across the country, which indicates the count is likely to rise.

Iran has been hit by flash flooding across most of the country since March.

The country's northeast was swamped on March 19 before the west and southwest of the country were inundated on March 25, killing a total 45 people.

"Across 15 provinces, 141 rivers burst their banks and around 400 land slides were reported," he told state TV. Flooding in the west and southwest continued on April 1 when heavy rains returned to the area.

"Seventy-eight intercity roads have been blocked, as many as 2,199 rural roads and 84 bridges have been washed away," said Behnam Saeedi, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Organisation.

The government said the flooding had damaged nearly 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles) of roads, or 36 percent of the country's entire street network.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US secretary of state blamed Tehran’s mismanagement for the flooding.

Mike Pompeo said the floods “once again show the level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness.”

“The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster,” Pompeo’s statement continued.

His remarks came after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the United States of impeding aid efforts and "economic terrorism" on Monday as authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of flood-stricken cities in western Iran.

US sanctions are "impeding aid efforts by #IranianRedcrescent to all communities devastated by unprecedented floods," Zarif tweeted, referring to search and rescue operations being conducted after huge rainfalls triggered vast flooding.

"Blocked equipment includes relief choppers," the tweet read, adding that "this isn't just economic warfare; it's economic TERRORISM."

The evacuation was ordered after rivers burst their banks, dams overflowed and vast areas were cut off from communication.

A chronic shortage of rescue helicopters in Iran, due to US sanctions, has forced the emergency services to request help from military helicopters and amphibious armoured personnel carriers to assist in the rescue operations.

The authorities declared a "situation red", the highest level of alert, in Lorestan province with four or five cities "completely critical", state television news network IRINN reported from Khorramabad, the region's capital.

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