Criticism grows as Iranian authorities respond to floods

Many Iranian provinces have been hit by flash flooding as criticism grows online about prevention efforts.

al-monitor A photograph released by the Iranian news agency Fars News shows flooded streets in the northern Iranian village of Agh Ghaleh, March 23, 2019. Photo by ALI DEHGHAN/AFP/Getty Images.

Mar 25, 2019

Iran's Meteorological Organization has warned of more floods to come in Iran as a number of provinces have been hit by heavy rain and flooding. The massive scale of the flooding and the number of those impacted has prompted the government to call in the military for disaster response.

Fars and Lorestan are the latest provinces hit by floods. In Shiraz, 17 people have been reported killed in flash flooding so far, with an additional 68 injured.

Iran’s Meteorological Organization has warned of potential flash flooding in 12 provinces across the country, mostly in the south and west. Rain showers could be accompanied by lightning, heavy winds, overflowing rivers, snow and slippery roads in mountainous areas, warned the organization. As the storms move south, Iranian officials have warned southern provinces to be on high alert.

While Iranian rescue crews assess the damage and other provinces prepare for the worst, the floods have already been politicized. First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri removed the governor of Golestan, Monaf Hashemi, from his post after criticism that he was on a pre-planned foreign trip when the flooding began. Iran is in the middle of its Nowruz, or New Year, holidays, when many Iranians leave the capital for their home cities or for mountain getaways during the two-week break. The heavy rains began over the weekend in the northern provinces of Golestan and Mazandaran on the Caspian Sea, a popular vacation getaway. According to officials, the approximate 1,000 homes that were damaged were near rivers.

President Hassan Rouhani called on government officials to immediately provide estimates on the damages in Golestan province at the next Cabinet meeting so that preparations for damage repair could begin. 

A number of military officials have also vowed to assist in the recovery efforts. Gholam Hossein Gheybparvar, the head of Iran’s Basij organization, said they would begin the rebuilding process in Golestan province in two days. Ataollah Salehi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, said that all of Iran’s forces would be responsible for providing services to those impacted by the flooding.

The reactions on social media have been harsher than the calm and collected official statements. A video of dozens of cars piling up in Shiraz was one of the most shocking and viral videos to be shared from today’s flooding. Videos showed that, in addition to roads, homes were also flooded.

Videos of flooding in Shiraz struck a particular nerve. Many pointed out that poor management and a lack of preparation caused most of the damages. The natural flow of water past a historical gate in Shiraz had been paved over into a major street, forcing water to travel through streets rather than their natural route. Many online also complained that the flooding in Shiraz had been forecast, and better preparations could have led to the closing of dangerous roads to prevent the loss of life. One Twitter user wrote, “This map shows that rain and flooding is predicted in Lorestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Ilam, Khuzestan and Fars provinces. Have any officials given warnings to the residents of these regions, especially Nowruz travelers, or are they planning on being caught unaware again?”

One Twitter user was even criticized for tweeting that the provinces most impacted by the flooding were provinces that voted for Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election.

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