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Eight killed in Iraqi Kurdistan floods

Residents clear debris in the area of Daratu, on the outskirts of Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on December 17, 2021, after flash floods caused by torrential rains left eight people dead. (Photo: AFP)
ARBIL, Iraq — Provincial governor Omid Khoshnaw said on Friday, Eight people died in northern Iraq due to flash floods caused by torrential rains in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.اضافة اعلان

In a country dealing with severe drought, many were caught by surprise and drowned as powerful storm waters began surging into their homes before dawn.

"The floods began at 4:00 am, and have left eight dead including women and children," he told AFP, reporting "significant" damage, especially in a working-class district in the east of the city of Arbil.

He added that four members of the civil defense team who came to help residents were injured when their car was washed away.

"Of the eight people who died, one died struck by lightning, while the others drowned in their homes," said civil defence spokesperson Sarkawt Karach.

Many people have been forced to leave their homes, he added. 

"Searches are ongoing for missing people," Karach said, warning that the death toll could still rise.

In Arbil, an AFP reporter saw torrents of muddy water pouring 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.

A succession of extreme weather events has hit Iraq.

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 rainstorms.

Experts have warned that record low rainfall, compounded by climate change, are threatening social and economic disaster in war-scarred Iraq.

Falling water levels have exacerbated the effects of low rainfall on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to dam-building in neighboring Turkey and Iran, Samah Hadid of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has said.

The severity of the drought has forced many farming families to leave their land and seek a living in urban areas.

In a study released Thursday, the NRC said half of the families living in drought-affected areas of Iraq need humanitarian food aid.

That followed a warning in November from the World Bank, which said Iraq could suffer a 20-percent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.

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