Emergency workers in Iraq struggle to help flood victims

A man walks in a carpark full of rainwater after heavy rainfall in the town Qal'at Sukkar, north of Nassiriya, on Nov. 25, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 26 November 2018

Emergency workers in Iraq struggle to help flood victims

  • Authorities attempt to divert water to save Baghdad from flooding
  • Thousands of families forced to leave their displacement camps

BAGHDAD: Aid agencies and government workers in Iraq scrambled on Tuesday to support tens of thousands of displaced people caught in flooding that killed at least 21 people.

Hundreds more were injured when rising waters swept several Iraqi provinces in the south and north over the past few days. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and tens of thousands of families displaced to safer areas, Iraqi officials and international humanitarian missions to Iraq said on Monday.

Villages near the town of Shirqat, 250 kilometers north of Baghdad and camps for the displaced in Qiyyara and Jaddaa south of Mosul were the hardest hit.  All three sites are near the Tigris river.

Civil defense teams, army and police forces across the country have been placed on high alert with the floods expected to continue as water continues to flow downstream from Syria and Iran.

Baghdad is also expected to be affected as the water works its way down the Tigris.

Water levels started to rise significantly on Friday after heavy rain hit all Iraq’s provinces and lasted three days. The villages located on the bank of the river near Shirqat were swamped. Eight people were killed, another eight are missing and scores were injured when flash floods covered streets and swept houses in Khadhraniya and Houriya, local officials told Arab News.

At least 1,200 houses were destroyed and more than 3,000 families displaced to other areas within the town.

The bridge linking the two villages to the other parts of the town was destroyed and hundreds of families were trapped in the flooded villages.

Iraqi army forces and Shiite armed factions used their equipment and facilities to help transfer families to safer areas.

In the south, Iraqi towns on the border with Iran border were the hardest hit, with seven people killed when their homes collapsed after flood waters flowed downstream from Iran.

Two others were killed due to electric shocks, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq told Arab News.

The Iraq Ministry of Water Resources has been working with local municipalities to redirect flood water to the lakes of Tharthar, northwest of Baghdad and Al-Shwija Marshes, south of Baghdad to limit its impact, officials told Arab News.

The UN mission in Iraq said more than 10,000 people in Saladin and 15,000 people in Nineveh are in urgent need of assistance, including thousands of families living in displacement camps. 

Tens of thousands of families have lost all their belongings and are   in dire need of food, drinking water medicine and hygiene kits, the World Health Organization (WHO) delegation in Iraq said on Monday. 

“A slight increase” in the number of upper respiratory tract infection cases were reported in the visited camps, WHO said.

“The situation requires a collective humanitarian effort and a quick reaction to minimize risks and contain the damage,” Ahmed Rashad, acting WHO representative in Iraq said. 

US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019

US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.