Heavy rainfall in Iraq kills at least 21, displaces thousands

Nineveh and Salahaddin are the most affected regions, with multiple reports of villages being inundated, the UN says.

    Heavy rainfall across the Middle East has caused deaths, displacement and disruption in recent days [Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters]
    Heavy rainfall across the Middle East has caused deaths, displacement and disruption in recent days [Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters]

    At least 21 people have died and tens of thousands displaced by torrential rains that have battered Iraq over two days, according to health officials and the United Nations.

    Seif al-Badr, spokesperson for Iraq's health ministry, told the AFP news agency on Sunday that women and children were among the dead.

    Some had drowned due to floods, but others had died in car accidents, were electrocuted or were trapped when their houses collapsed.

    At least 180 more were injured, he added.

    Iraq's north has borne the brunt of the heavier-than-average rainfall, and the United Nations' Iraq office said the downpour had forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes.

    An estimated 10,000 people in the province and 15,000 people in Nineveh are in desperate need of help, including families living in camps for internally displaced persons, the UN said on Saturday.

    "Losses are still being assessed, but initial accounts from flooded areas include the destruction of homes, livestock and household items," it said in a statement.

    In the al-Sharqat district in Salahaddin, about 250km north of the capital, Baghdad, thousands of homes were left totally underwater by the rains.

    In Mosul, the heavy storms submerged two floating bridges along the Tigris river, which bisects the city.

    They were the only way to move between Mosul's eastern and western halves, after all its bridges were bombed during last year's months-long operation to retake the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.

    On Friday, new Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced the establishment of a "crisis cell" of security forces and local authorities to coordinate a response.

    The ministries of electricity, oil and trade had also indicated their willingness to help.

    Iraq is one of the hottest countries on earth but when heavy rains do hit, they can result in casualties because of deteriorating public infrastructure.

    In 2015, 58 Iraqis were killed in floods and cases of electrocution due to intense downpours.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies