Iran armed forces, rescue teams step up flood relief efforts

Iran armed forces, rescue teams step up flood relief efforts

Iran’s Army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have stepped up ongoing relief efforts in several provinces hardest hit by flash floods, as people in most parts of the country continue to grapple with adverse weather conditions.

The Army scrambled a dozen military transport helicopters to Lorestan’s flood-hit areas after heavy rainfall caused local rivers to bust their banks, triggering flash floods that swept through provincial towns and villages, and forced massive evacuations on Monday.

Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari, the commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, said Tuesday that 10 choppers had already arrived in the area to deliver rescue and relief operations and two more were to join the fleet later in the day.

The commander noted that much of the rescue efforts were centered in the city of Pol-e Dokhtar, where hundreds of people were trapped in areas cut off by violent torrents of water.

He noted that the Army was moving tactical military bridges from Ahvaz, the capital of the neighboring Khuzestan province, to help with rescue operations in Loresten which were expected to conclude by the end of the day.

An Iranian family walks through a flooded street in a village around the city of Ahvaz, in Iran's Khuzestan Province, on March 31, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The Army also moved dozens of armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Lorestan in order to speed up rescue operations in inundated areas where road vehicles cannot be used.

The Air Force’s 4th Combat and Logistics Base in Isfahan said it was ready to deploy its assets in the province, where heavy rains and strong winds have caused major damage to buildings and cars, as well as in other parts of the country.

IRGC deploys drones, choppers

The IRGC also announced that had it deployed several choppers, drones, an engineering unit as well as two make-shift hospitals in Lorestan province.

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the IRGC Ground Force's chief, has traveled to Lorestan to closely monitor the efforts, according to Sepahnews, the force's official news outlet.

IRGC spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif told reporters that the force was flying reconnaissance drones over flooded areas to locate survivors and carry out damage estimates.

According to Sharif, the IRGC was also building bridges in flooded areas to speed up evacuations.

He predicted that the first stage of the relief efforts would end by late Tuesday given that the weather conditions were improving.

Sharif gave assurances that in the next step, the IRGC would focus on reconstruction projects and would continue its efforts until life in affected areas would be restored to normal.

Red Crescent rapid response groups descend upon Lorestan

The Iranian Red Crescent Society announced on Tuesday that it had deployed a team of specially skilled rescue workers and divers to Lorestan as large parts of the province, specially in Pol-e Dokhtar, remained under water.

The group is equipped with rescue boats, electric generators and water pumps for emergency situations.

Death toll rises to 57

Mojtaba Khaledi, the spokesperson for Iran’s National Emergency Service, said Tuesday that the death toll from the nationwide floods and extreme weather conditions had risen to 57. At least 478 people have also been injured.

Out of that figure, 21 lost their lives in the flash floods that swept away hundreds of cars and damages a large number of buildings in the tourist city of Shiraz, in the southern province of Fars last week.

The minister noted that water samples analyzed in the flood-hit areas had not been contaminated, ruling out the possibility of water-related infectious diseases.

In Kermanshah, heavy rain and snowfall have slowed down commute on main roads, while officials have warned of imminent flooding in this western province.

Authorities raised similar alarms of imminent flooding in other western provinces including Hamedan and Markazi, which have received plentiful levels of snow and rainfall in recent days.

Local authorities in Hamedan’s small town of Assad Abad said floodwaters had inundated most of the city’s agricultural lands and caused major damage in rural parts.

Officials in Khuzestan also warned of persisting risks of flood as heavy rains continued to pound various cities across the oil-rich southwestern province.

In the capital Tehran, there were reports of flood in suburban areas such as Fasham as rainfall reached near-historic levels. Several villages to the south of Tehran have been evacuated. Most businesses and recreational centers in the capital that are close to rivers with a risk of overflowing have been kept closed.

Police have advised people to avoid unnecessary traveling in high-risk areas.

More rain expected

While the current weather system is expected to leave Iran later on Tuesday, the Iran Meteorological Organization (IRMO) has warned that a new low pressure system is expected to enter the country as early as Thursday.

Heavy downpours have caused the average level of rainfall in some parts of the country to more than triple during the first few days of the Persian New Year compared to last year.

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