Death Toll in Floods Climbs to 76 as Devastation Costs Iran over $2 Bln
Seventy-six people have been killed in Iran by floods in recent weeks, according to a new toll published Sunday as lawmakers estimated the cost of the devastation at more than $2 billion.
"With the death of five people in the Khuzestan province flood and another person in Ilam province the death toll has now reached 76," since March 19, according to a statement published online by the coroner's office.
The two southwestern provinces are the latest overwhelmed by floods that first hit the northeast of the usually arid country, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate from cities and villages, said AFP.
Officials have again issued flood warnings for the east of Iran with heavy rains that began on Saturday forecasted to continue.
The floods have caused immense damage with homes, roads, infrastructure and agriculture all hit.
"More than 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) of roads have been damaged," transport minister Mohammad Eslami told parliament, according to the official IRNA news agency.
He added that "725 bridges have been totally destroyed."
The head of Iran's meteorology service told the same parliamentary session that the floods do not necessarily mean that a decades-long drought has ended.
"The recent floods were due to climate change and global warming," Sahar Tajbakhsh said.
Tehran has received aid from neighboring countries and further afield, with France on Saturday donating 210 tents and 114 pumps.
“The recent floods are unprecedented... 25 provinces and more than 4,400 villages have been affected,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying in parliament by state news agency IRNA.
Fazli said Sunday the floods had caused around 350 trillion rials ($2.5 billion) worth of damage, said Reuters.
The government has said it will pay compensation to all those who have incurred losses, especially farmers but Tehran’s state budget is already stretched as US sanctions on its energy and banking sectors have halved Iranian oil exports and restricted access to some revenues abroad.
Morteza Shahidzadeh, head of Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, said President Hassan Rouhani had asked permission from the supreme leader Ali Khamenei to withdraw $2 billion from the fund for reconstruction in flood-hit areas.
Shahidzadeh said Khamenei has in principle agreed to the request.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said the massive floods have not affected production and development at any oilfields, nor impeded the flow of crude through pipelines to recipient markets.
Karim Zobeidi, an official at the National Iranian Oil Company, was cited as saying on Sunday that it was still too early to estimate the extent of the flood damage to Iran’s energy sector.
Mehr news agency also quoted Zobeidi as saying that some oil wells in western Iran had been closed as a precaution to guard against any flooding.