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. 

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

Updated 20 July 2019

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

  • Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has downplayed the threat

ANKARA: Following losses in key cities this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now risks losing more voters as former allies stick their head above the parapet and appear to be on the verge of creating new parties.
Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory under Erdogan.
Rumors have swirled in Ankara for months that Babacan and Davutoglu may establish their own political parties to challenge the Islamic-rooted AKP that has dominated Turkish politics this century.
On July 8, Babacan, who is credited with overseeing Turkey’s economic boom during the AKP’s first decade in power, dealt the first blow when he resigned from the party.
He claimed Turkey needed a “new vision” and cited “deep differences” over policy, hinting a new party — or “new effort” — was “inevitable.”
With double-digit inflation, slower growth and a weakened lira, many hope Babacan will be the answer to Turkey’s economic woes and an alternative to Erdogan.
Ten days after Babacan, Davutoglu gave an interview broadcast live online in which he appeared to suggest he would be ready to set up a new party.
Erdogan has downplayed the threat but also warned Babacan against splitting the “ummah” — using the Arabic word for the Muslim community.
Experts say the president will not quietly accept these challenges.
“Erdogan is likely to combat any threat he sees to his personalized rule,” said Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University.
She pointed to the jailing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas who had vehemently opposed Erdogan, and the ongoing trials of civil society leaders and AKP opponents.
Turkey has been to the polls eight times in just five years, but now any new party will have potentially until the next elections in 2023 to create momentum and attract voters.
When he announced he was standing down as prime minister in 2016 after two years, Davutoglu vowed never to criticize Erdogan in public.
That promise lay in tatters this week as he spoke online for three hours, saying he would remain within the AKP for now, but that: “If there is no other option, a (new) party must be set up.”
For now, it appears unlikely that Davutoglu will join forces with other splitters from the AKP, having been a fairly divisive figure himself in the past.
However, there have been reports that former president and co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, could act as an “honorary chairman” to a party led by Babacan.
It had been mooted that Gul would run against Erdogan in last year’s presidential elections, but he never came forward.
Erdogan criticized Babacan after his resignation, saying they disagreed over many issues, including interest rates, which the president controversially believes must be kept low to reduce inflation.
When asked if he was disappointed by Babacan, Davutoglu and Gul, Erdogan responded with evident exasperation: “For the love of Allah, should this question be asked? If one is not disappointed with them, who would one be disappointed with?”
But he said previous MPs had left the party and been largely forgotten.
The AKP came to power after the Turkish economy suffered a severe financial crisis in 2001, and needed an International Monetary Fund loan to emerge from the embers.
Eighteen years later, Turkey is again in an economic slump.
Inflation is at 15.7 percent; the rate of unemployment is 13 percent while the economy contracted by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
According to Hintz, the success of any party launched by Babacan will “likely depend on the extent to which it offers concrete plans for tackling Turkey’s economic problems and social divides.”
She added that Babacan had a “shot at galvanizing Turkey’s center-right, particularly given widespread disillusion surrounding the personal enrichment of AKP leaders while Turkey’s economy slides further toward crisis.”
Erdogan and the AKP, set up in 2001, have won every general election since coming to power in 2002.
But after 25 years of the AKP and its predecessors running Istanbul, the country’s economic powerhouse is now in the hands of the opposition, despite a controversial push by the ruling party to order a re-run of the vote.
Erdogan still commands widespread loyalty, particularly in the provinces, said Emre Erdogan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, and no relation to the president.
But he said any new challenger could be “destructive” to Erdogan’s chances at the next election, given that presidential candidates must win over 50 percent of the vote.