Iraq: Flash Floods – Emergency Plan of Action

Heavy rains have slammed the Kurdish region after one of the driest years in decades. On 17 December 2021, heavy rainfalls hit the country’s northern Kurdish region. The heavy rains overnight caused a flash flood in Erbil, the region’s capital, and Kirkuk Governorate, located in Northern Iraq. The incident caused widespread damage to houses, infrastructure, and vehicles. Muddy water swept into people’s homes in Erbil’s Daratu, Qushtapa, Shamamk, Zhyan, Roshinbiri, and Bahrka neighbourhoods in the early hours of the morning, forcing individuals out of their houses. According to the Kurdish region government on 19 December, 14 people were reported dead by the floods and more than 7,000 people are affected by these floods, while IRCS carried further rapid assessments to confirm with the affected families. More are feared missing while search and rescue operations are ongoing. Officials urged residents to stay off the roads and avoid flooded areas. The floodwaters had receded, and government authorities had started to clear flood debris in affected areas.

Iraq has witnessed record-low rainfall this year, but officials have warned of sporadic heavy rains due to climate change. Experts have warned that record low rainfall, compounded by climate change, is threatening social and economic disasters in war-scarred Iraq. The disastrous heavy rains came at a time when Iraq was suffering with severe droughts, where seven million Iraqis have been already affected and most of the agricultural land is completely affected by the droughts spell and left people with more vulnerabilities. IFRC on the behalf of IRCS, launched the DREF operation for droughts to cater the pressing needs of the affected population in three governorates. These three governorates are amongst the hotspot governorates affected by the current drought.

Iraq is at risk of multiple disasters ranging from the natural disasters such as drought, sandstorm, heatwaves, floods, desertification and epidemics to man-made ones. Due to its diverse topography, Iraq is exposed to multiple natural hazards. Floods and epidemics pose the greatest risks in the country, followed by earthquakes and drought. The number and frequency of disasters is growing. These disasters accounted for approximately 45 per cent of deaths and 80 per cent of economic losses from disasters in the country. Recent decades have seen an alarming increase in the frequency of disaster occurrences each year and the magnitude of their social, economic and environmental impacts. Climate change continues to evolve as a critical threat to the development in Iraq, fuelling conflicts, humanitarian sufferings and population displacement. In recent years, Iraq has endured blistering temperatures and repeated droughts, but it has also been subjected to intense flash floods, which are exacerbated when torrential rain falls on sun-baked earth. Iraq is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather patterns, most likely caused by climate change due to its underdeveloped infrastructure. More heavy rain is expected in the coming days, according to the Regional Meteorology Department.

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