Several dead, thousands flee homes in Iraq floods

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Workers clean a damaged bridge after a flood in Sharqat of Salahudin Province, Iraq, Nov. 24, 2018. Seven people died in floods and drove thousands to safer grounds. Xinhua

TIKRIT (Reuters) – At least seven people died and thousands fled their homes in flash floods around the northern Iraqi town of Shirqat.

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.

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 Islamic State militants, and by years of neglect that critics blame on corruption.

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Footage from the state-run Iraqi News Agency on Friday showed people in Salahuddin province, where Shirqat is located, escaping their half-submerged homes in small boats.

“Some 3,000 people are now homeless after fleeing their villages,” Shirqat Mayor Ali Dodah said.

Officials in Tikrit, the Salahuddin provincial capital, called for rescue helicopters to be sent to help with evacuations.

The Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported that the floods had damaged a camp housing at least 30 internally displaced Yazidi families, with residents facing temperatures hovering around zero.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi has announced he was establishing a “crisis cell” of security forces and local authorities to coordinate a response.

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It would be backed by “helicopters and heavy-duty vehicles will intervene as quickly as possible and carry out rescue operations,” his office said.

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