TEHERAN • The threat of fresh flooding has prompted the evacuation of dozens of villages in southern Iran, with 70 people killed since the middle of last month amid heavy rainfall across the country.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has warned that about 400,000 people could be affected by flood waters in the province of Khuzestan, with more rain forecast in the coming days, Al-Jazeera reported. Khuzestan has three major rivers that pass through several cities, towns and villages, including the provincial capital Ahvaz.
The flooding has spread steadily across the nation, inundating communities in at least 26 of Iran's 31 provinces. Heavy rain began in the middle of last month in the north-eastern province of Golestan, which received 70 per cent of its average annual rainfall in one day.
Reports indicate that 95 out of 800 villages hit by the waters in Golestan still have not recovered from the flood.
Many schools in Golestan have yet to open, even though national holidays ended last Friday.
Thousands have also been displaced amid panic and chaos caused by flooding in the western province of Lorestan.
The town of Poldokhtar has been the worst hit, but numerous other villages have been affected by the floods, which have caused widespread infrastructure damage.
On March 25, flash floods killed dozens in the southern city of Shiraz, which is a popular tourist destination in Fars province.
"Iran is under water," Mr Sayed Hashem, regional director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, told The New York Times.
Aid groups are warning that the situation could get worse if the rain continues.
Train lines have been washed away and neighbourhoods have been submerged. Footage posted on social media showed raging flood waters sweeping cars from roadways and rivers bursting their banks.
Aid groups have struggled to reach all the affected areas.
Some residents have had to take to rooftops as they waited to be rescued, with their homes partially submerged. Aerial images showed waterlogged fields stretching as far as the eye could see.
"While the precise impact is still to be seen, it is already very clear that the floods have caused extensive damage and suffering in villages, cities and rural areas," Mr Hashem said.
"During the floods, 200 bridges and 400km of roads were 100 per cent destroyed," Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abdolhashem Hassannia told Iran Labour News Agency. Roads to 275 villages in Lorestan province were blocked, said Mr Hassannia.
Iranian officials have criticised the economic sanctions reimposed by the United States last year for hindering recovery efforts.
A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Mr Bahram Ghasemi, said last Tuesday that banking restrictions had impeded aid groups like the Red Cross from sending assistance to victims.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back, blaming Iran's own "mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness" for the crisis.
He said the US was ready to offer funding to the Red Cross.
International aid has begun to arrive in the country. The German Red Cross sent 40 inflatable boats and other rescue equipment.
Several tonnes of food, water pumps and medicine have arrived from Kuwait, according to Iran's state-run news service IRNA. Much of the disaster occurred during the Nowruz New Year holiday in Iran.