Tehran, Iran – Flash flooding in southern and parts of western Iran has left at least 23 people dead and more than 200 injured, according to news agencies citing officials, as the government urged people to cancel trips and warned of more rains.
The Ministry of Interior advised Iranians on Monday evening to cancel any trips and take the warnings seriously with the Disaster Management Organisation sending nationwide text messages to warn people about taking routes that are prone to flooding, including those in mountains and river banks.
The disaster comes during Iranian New Year, Nowruz, holidays when many Iranians travel in the country.
“There were only two sets of 15-minute heavy rainfalls that caused the flood to spread through the city,” a resident of Shiraz, the worst-affected city, told Al Jazeera.
“The number of casualties would have been less, had people avoided staying there or leaving as soon as they saw the flood coming.”
The country’s Meteorological Organisation put 12 provinces on high alert until Wednesday, predicting a higher chance of flood due to heavy rains across the country from western parts on Monday and Tuesday to eastern and northeastern regions later on.
Flights to and from Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport have been either cancelled or delayed due to bad weather. At least 22 routes were blocked due mostly to the climatic conditions, local news agencies reported.
Fars news agency reported that President Hassan Rouhani cut short a trip to Qeshm Island due to the flooding disaster.
In a public statement, Rouhani offered condolences to the victims while thanking rescue crews, the armed forces and the police for rescue operations.
Opposition and some media outlets have criticised Rouhani over the handling of the flood disaster.
Flooding also killed one person in Sar-Pol Zahab county in the western Kermanshah Province, where some residents still live in temporary cabins. They are trying to restore or re-build houses and apartments damaged by a strong earthquake that took hundreds of lives last year.
The lives of those who live close to the banks of the Arvand river, however, are more at risk amid the possibility of an overflow.
“Because many residents are not willing to abandon the houses that are being restored, they refuse to leave the area to go to a safer place,” Farzad Nasimipour, a resident of Sar-Pol Zahab, told Al Jazeera.
The 32-year-old political science graduate said there is a risk of more casualties in the coming days if there is no immediate action to evacuate residents from places at a higher risk of floods.
In a horrifying video being shared on social media, which is believed to be recorded from a window of a bus, strongly flowing water is seen washing away cars as well as pedestrians unable to hold on to a concrete power pole.
Other pictures, too, show numerous damaged cars piled up by the flood at the northern entrance of Shiraz city.
In the northern Mazandaran Province, dozens of bridges have been destroyed, while in other parts hundreds of villages were submerged under flood water.
The northern floods started more than a week ago, hitting mostly areas in Golestan Province southeast of the Caspian Sea.
Its governor was recently fired over his refusal to cut short a trip abroad as disaster decimated the region.
The flooding is likely to impact tourism; more Iranians were expected to travel inside the country after the devaluation of the Iranian rial made foreign trips expensive.
The rial has lost significantly because of the new round of US sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump, who unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015.