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Iran orders over 60,000 to evacuate flood-hit oil city

Iran orders over 60,000 to evacuate flood-hit oil city

Trees were partially submerged by water from floods in Hamidiyeh, in Iran's western Khuzestan province. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

AHVAZ, Iran: Authorities ordered tens of thousands of residents of the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz to evacuate immediately on Wednesday (Apr 10) as floodwaters entered the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province, state television reported.

The province's governor, Gholamreza Shariati, said he ordered the evacuation of five districts as a "precautionary and preventive move to avert any danger", Iran's Tasnim news agency reported.

Residents in two of the districts were reluctant to leave, preferring to stay and battle the rising waters, according to AFP reporters on the scene.

"We cannot evacuate the houses. Each household has at least three children, we have lots of cattle, water buffalos, furniture," one resident said without providing his name.

If the floods continue, "we could stay on our roofs or second floors", he added, raising his arms in a sign of desperation.

Behind him, others rushed past carrying sandbags to reinforce a self-made dyke just metres away from the advancing water.

Others in the poor and mostly Arab-populated Sayyahi district in western Ahvaz were trying to waterproof their walls with concrete mixes and reinforce front doors with mud and sandbags.

Governor Shariati called on young men in the areas, which have an estimated population of between 60,000 and 70,000, to "help us in building dykes and to assist in the evacuation of women, children and the elderly".

"The Dez and Karkheh rivers have for the first time joined each other near Ahvaz and are now flowing towards the city," Shariati told state TV, adding this was unprecedented.

Residents in a sixth district, Kianshahr, were also put on standby for evacuation.

AFP reporters on Wednesday saw young men scrambling to put furniture into trucks on streets crowded with others doing the same.

Khuzestan province has been struggling with major floods due to heavy rains as well as floodwater coming from the north.

It is the latest in a series of unprecedented floods that have hit the normally arid country since March 19, killing at least 70 people in 20 of Iran's 31 provinces.

The country's northeast was first swamped on Mar 19 before the west and southwest of the country were hit on Mar 25.


On April 1 the west and southwest were again swamped by floods when heavy rains returned.

The huge inflow of water forced authorities to release large volumes of water from the province's largest dams, which is now threatening some of the cities downstream including the Ahvaz region, home to 1.3 million.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of six new cities along the Karkheh river on Saturday as the situation neared "critical" status.

"We've been trying to manage the water ... most of it has been diverted toward other channels," Ahvaz Mayor Mansour Katanbaf told ISNA on Sunday.

But on Monday a hospital in danger of being flooded was evacuated in Ahvaz as officials battled to contain the rising waters.

Emergency services have been left scrambling to prevent further loss of life and to provide relief to flood-stricken residents.

"Delivering food and hygienic goods to (shelter) camps is our primary priority and we have provided emergency accommodations for about 44,000 people," Iran Red Crescent's head of Relief and Rescue Organisation Morteza Salimi told AFP on Tuesday.

In the city of Susangerd, swamped by floodwaters, AFP reporters saw residents living in tents setup on the roofs of their homes as what had previously been roads had become canals marked by the palm trees lining the streets.

Red Crescent choppers were providing food and basic goods to regions cutoff by floods, with villagers rushing to receive the help as they approached.

Twenty dinghies donated by Germany's Red Cross were also being used to help areas inaccessible via helicopters.

The Iranian Red Crescent said days ago that it could not receive any financial foreign aid because of US economic sanctions against Iran, which prohibit banking transactions with the country.

The World Health Organization shipped essential medical supplies to Iran on Wednesday to respond to potential diseases caused by the floods, said a WHO press release.

Neighbouring Pakistan said it sent 32 tonnes of tents, blankets and emergency medical kits to Iran, with the first shipment dispatched to Ahvaz.

The country-wide flooding has caused damage worth 150 trillion Iranian rials - more than US$1 billion at the free market rate - according to an official estimate given by lawmaker Mehrdad Lahooti.

Interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli travelled to Khuzestan on Wednesday to monitor the progress made in battling the flood, its ministry announced.

Source: AFP/de


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