Iraqi provinces announce public holiday amid heavy rain

Cars are carried away in floodwaters as thunderstorms cause widespread disruption

Heavy rain has hit provinces across Iraq, with more thunderstorms forecast this week. AFP
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Authorities in several Iraqi provinces have declared Monday to be a public holiday after rainstorms swept across parts of the country on Sunday.

Heavy rain was reported in the three provinces of the northern Kurdistan region, as well as neighbouring Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces.

Provincial authorities in Najaf, Diwaniyah, Samawah, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Maysan, Babil and Wasit, areas in central and southern Iraq, also announced a public holiday.

Emergency services will not be affected by the holiday.

Videos shared on social media showed wet weather, including thunderstorms. Torrential rain caused flooding and disrupted traffic, with some videos and images showing cars floating away in the torrents.

More thunderstorms have been forecast this week.

Municipal workers and the Interior Ministry's civil defence service pumped water from flooded areas and worked to rescue people stuck in cars and homes. No casualties were reported.

In the past three years, Iraq has faced record summer temperatures that exceeded 50°C in many areas, as well as insufficient and diminishing rainfall and frequent sand and dust storms.

Reduced water flow from its two main rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, and record heatwaves have intensified drought and water scarcity in Iraq.

Desertification affects 39 per cent of the country and 54 per cent of its agricultural land has been degraded, mainly due to soil salinity caused by historically low river levels, rain scarcity and rising sea levels.

The poor condition of infrastructure across Iraq has resulted in serious flooding in some areas. Anger over poor services and corruption sparked months-long protests in 2019.

Since then reforms have been announced and billions of dollars spent on projects, but there has been little evidence of significant change so far.

Updated: November 20, 2023, 7:22 AM