At least eight people have died and several have been injured after torrential rains caused severe flooding in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, according to officials.
Provincial Governor Omid Khoshnaw said on Friday that women and children were among those killed after the heavy overnight swept through a number of residential areas.
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“The floods also caused great material losses,” he said a statement.
Local news outlet Rudaw quoted Khoshnaw as saying that seven people had died due to flooding, and another person lost their life in a lightning strike.
Several other people were reported injured, while the casualty toll and the extent of the damage were still being assessed.
Civil defence spokesperson Sarkawt Karach said many people have been forced to leave their homes. “Searches are ongoing for missing people,” Karach said, warning that the death toll could still rise.
In Erbil, reports said torrents of muddy water poured down roads. Buses, trucks and tankers were washed away by the storm waters, with some toppled onto their side.
Khoshnaw called on residents to stay at home unless necessary, warning that further rain was expected with fears for more floods.
Iraq has been hit by a succession of extreme weather events. It has endured blistering temperatures and repeated droughts in recent years, but has also experienced intense floods – made worse when torrential rain falls on sun-baked earth.
Hard ground, compounded by vegetation loss, means the earth does not absorb water as quickly, and when storms hit, they can become flash floods.
Scientists say climate change amplifies extreme weather, including droughts as well as the potential for the increased intensity of rain storms.
Experts have warned that record low rainfall, compounded by climate change, are threatening social and economic disaster in war-scarred Iraq.