Four children and three women were killed on Friday as heavy floods submerged thousands of homes in a district of northern Iraq, a local official said. Three other people were unaccounted for, said Ali Dawdah, the mayor of Al-Sharqat, a town 250 km north of Baghdad.
“Three thousand homes have been flooded,” and hundreds of families have fled, he added.
Lt. Gen. Jumaa Anad, head of the emergency operations room, said five people were still missing following the flash floods in Houreya village, outside of Al-Sharqat in the northern Salahuddin province. Anad said the village’s 4,000 residents have been evacuated after water levels rose to 2 meters. The flash floods also caused bridges to collapse.
The state news agency also reported floods in the southern province of Dhi Qar, saying that a house there collapsed killing two of its occupants.
Footage from the state-run Iraqi News Agency showed people escaping their half-submerged homes in small boats.
Iraq and neighboring countries have been hit by heavier-than-average rainfall in recent weeks, resulting in deaths and widespread material damage.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced Friday he was establishing a “crisis cell” of security forces and local authorities to coordinate a response.
It would be backed by “helicopters and heavy-duty vehicles will intervene as quickly as possible and carry out rescue operations,” his office said.
President Barham Salih expressed condolences to victims’ families on Twitter, calling it a “painful accident that reaffirms the necessity for reconstruction and (public) services.”
Iraq is one of the hottest countries on earth but when heavy rains do hit, they can result in floods because of deteriorating public infrastructure.
In 2015, 58 Iraqis were killed in floods and cases of electrocution due to intense downpours.
The floods, after unusually heavy and early rainfall in recent weeks, have piled more pressure on Iraq’s new government to provide services and fix infrastructure in provinces hard-hit by the 2014-17 war against Daesh, and by years of neglect that critics blame on corruption.