Southwest Iran Hit Hard by Flooding, Evacuation Underway in Ahvaz

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) Iran evacuated residents from inundated areas of the southwestern city of Ahvaz on Wednesday as the nationwide death toll from the worst flooding in 70 years reached 77, state media reported.

The state news agency IRNA said more than 200 villages were also evacuated in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan, and 46,000 people were housed in emergency shelters provided by the government.

Further districts of Ahvaz were put on flood alert, the provincial governor said, as more torrential rain was forecast in coming days. A hospital in the city was evacuated on Monday.

Floods described by officials as the worst since the 1940s have hit some 1,900 cities and villages across Iran after exceptionally heavy rain since March 19. Western and southwestern areas of the country are suffering the worst.

The disaster has left aid agencies struggling to cope, and the armed forces were deployed to help flood-hit people.

Early estimates put flood losses in the agriculture sector at 47 trillion rials ($350 million).

The government has told citizens, and especially flood-affected farmers, that all losses will be compensated. The Islamic Republic’s state budget is already stretched under U.S. sanctions on energy and banking sectors that have halved Iranian oil exports and restricted access to some revenues abroad.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said the massive floods have not affected production and development of oilfields, or the flow of crude through pipelines to recipient markets.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Editing by Mark Heinrich)