Flash floods caused by heavy rain killed seven Iraqi tourists in north-eastern Iran on Saturday, Iranian state media reported, the latest in rising casualty tolls as the downpours continue.
The official IRNA news agency said the tourists were part of a 13-member group of Iraqis visiting Iran.
They were travelling in an estate car on a road near the city of Mashhad, about 800 kilometres east of the capital, Tehran, when a flash flood swept their car away.
The dead included five women and the group’s Iranian driver. Three Iraqis were missing while the other passengers managed to get to safety.
Iranian authorities on Saturday raised the death toll from landslides and flash floods that engulfed the country since Thursday to 61 as eight more bodies were retrieved.
It said at least 32 people were still missing.
The national crisis centre said the heavy rain, which has affected 21 of Iran's 31 provinces, was expected to continue until Monday.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited a rescue operation centre in Firuzkuh, one of the stricken villages north-east of Tehran, on Saturday and promised more help for the area.
He said that a quick reaction team and a group of search and rescue dogs continue to search the area to find missing people.
Tehran province was the hardest-hit with 35 deaths. Nearby Mazandaran province had the highest number of missing people at 20, a list published by the Red Crescent showed.
There were fears the death toll could rise further as more bodies were uncovered as the rains abated. Thousands of people have been transferred from remote areas to safer places.
The heavy rain is unusual for this time of year in Iran, which is in the middle of its summer, and are regarded as part of a pattern of extreme and unpredictable weather worldwide as a result of climate change.
Last Saturday, flash floods in Iran’s drought-stricken southern Fars province killed at least 22 people and affected about a dozen villages in the province.
This week’s storm is the deadliest among Iran’s rain-related incidents in the past decade. In 2019, a flash flood killed at least 21 people in the southern city of Shiraz, and two years earlier, a storm claimed 48 lives in north-western Iran.
Mudslides in northern Iran in 2001 and in Tehran in 1987 killed 500 and 300 people, respectively.
Authorities have blamed the high death tolls on a wide disregard for safety measures by people who venture out in the storms, while critics cite mismanagement in construction projects as well as late warnings as other causes.
With reporting from agencies.