Flooding Kills Several and Displaces Tens of Thousands in Iraq
In the latest wave of storms to hit the Middle East, areas across Iraq have been subjected to intense flooding after weeks of heavy rainfall. The floods have resulted in multiple deaths and injuries and displaced tens of thousands of people. They have also damaged countless bridges, roads, and villages. On Friday, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced a “crisis cell” of security forces and local authorities to coordinate a response to carry out rescue operations.
In Shirqat, a town in northern Iraq, the mayor announced that as many as 3,000 homes have been at least partially submerged by the flooding, and a large number of residents from villages in the northern region are trapped. Houses collapsed in Basra and Dhi Qar, a city and province in southern Iraq, killing a two-year old girl, a mother and child, and wounding two others.
Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency, reported that the floods had damaged a camp housing 30 internally displaced Yazidi families, who are facing near zero temperatures. Jamal Augab, a resident of Saladin province in the Kurdistan Region told Rudaw that eight have died, 16 are injured, and six are still missing. Thousands of Yazidis were captured by the Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014 when they took over the Sinjar area, and many of those who were not killed are still without official homes.
One Yazidi man said that “This has been our life for three years. Nobody is helping us. We go to the manager [of the camp], he says to go to the local mayor. Nobody recognizes us.” Yazidi families say that these heavy rains have been a problem every year, but the government has yet to address the poor infrastructure. Although police visited the camp on Thursday night, they were unable to provide significant assistance. Another Yazidi said that “None of our belongings are left. They are washed away.”
The storm has not been specific to Iraq. Kuwait has faced multiple instances of flooding in the past week; Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraq in Iran, as well as Mecca and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia are at risk of flash flooding from rain and thunderstorms. In the past month, 35 people have been killed by flooding in Saudi Arabia. The storm is expected to pass by Tuesday, Nov. 27, but another storm may strike later in the week.
In light of the casualties, injuries, and thousands of displaced people, Iraqis are calling on the government to provide adequate services and fix state infrastructure, which was destroyed in the war against IS and by neglect that many attribute to government corruption. President Barham Salih tweeted that the flooding is a “painful accident that reaffirms the necessity for reconstruction and (public) services.” If the government fails to address infrastructure and political issues, the flooding will continue to destroy homes and lives in the coming years. The storms are likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change, making infrastructure repairs increasingly critical.