March 30, 2019 / 1:56 PM / 19 days ago

Iran calls emergency in flood-threatened southwest province

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it faced an emergency in a southwestern province threatened by flooding and worked to evacuate dozens of villages as forecasters predicted more of the heavy rains that have killed at least 45 people this week, state media reported.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of flooding in Golestan province, Iran March 27, 2019. Official Iranian President website/Handout via REUTERS

Some 56 villages lying near the Dez and Karkheh rivers in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan may have to be evacuated as officials released water from two major dams along the rivers due to forecasts for more rain, the provincial governor, Gholamreza Shariati, told state television.

“Some residents are resisting (evacuation calls) because of their livestock...and because they’ve experienced similar circumstances in the past,” Shariati said, adding Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli had agreed to call an emergency in Khuzestan.

Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian, who is in charge of water resources, said authorities were working round-the-clock to “control floodwaters and to minimize possible damage”.

“It’s estimated that in the next five days about three billion cubic meters of water will flow into dam reservoirs in Khuzestan due to rainfall ... 1.8 billion of which (is above capacity and) will have to be released,” he told state television.

The semi-official news agency ISNA quoted Shariati as saying floods could also threaten the provincial capital Ahvaz if the rain is at the highest end of forecasts.

In the neighboring province of Lorestan, at least eight villages and parts of the town of Dorud were being evacuated, the semi-official news agency Fars reported.

Officials have said the government would compensate residents for flood damage.

At least 45 people were killed this week in flash floods in northern and southern Iran after the heaviest rains recorded in Iran in at least a decade, the state news agency IRNA quoted Health Minister Saeid Namaki as saying.

Western and southwestern parts of the country are expected to bear the brunt of the storms in the days ahead.

Police renewed calls for people to avoid unnecessary journeys even though Iran is celebrating the Nowruz new year holiday, a time when many families travel.

Iran has implemented measures to prevent rain and flooding affecting its main crude oil export terminal on Kharg Island in the Gulf, the head of the Iranian Oil Terminals Company told the semi-official news agency Mehr on Saturday.

National Iranian Gas Company said earlier its pipeline network had not been affected by the bad weather.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Helen Popper, Edmund Blair and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

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