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Azerbaijani Officials Blame Iran For Flooding

Flooding on the Kura River
Flooding on the Kura River
BAKU -- Some Azerbaijani politicians have blamed Iran for manipulating reservoirs near their common border and contributing to the flooding of villages in southeastern Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The reservoirs are along the Araz River, which forms much of the border between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Residents of 12 Azerbaijani villages have been evacuated after the Kura River -- of which the Araz is a tributary -- burst its banks on May 7, the result of heavy rains last week.

The high water led to the first evacuations on May 8. Several more settlements, including the town of Sabirabad, are in danger of being flooded and may still be evacuated.

Ahmed Ahmedzade, the head of Azerbaijan's state water-management administration, said on May 7 that "above-average discharge of water from the Khudaferin Reservoir in occupied Azerbaijani territories into the Araz River caused the floods in the Kura River in Sabirabad and Shirvan."

Pro-government parliament member Azay Guliyev told RFE/RL on May 10 that there are clear signs that Iran sought to create tension in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian Embassy in Baku denied, in a statement on May 10, any responsibility for the flooding and dismissed official Azerbaijani statements as "untrue and irresponsible."

"The Iranian government increased the volume of water in the Khudaferin Reservoir to keep the outflow to the Araz River low," it said.

Opposition parliament member Panah Huseyn said today that he does not believe the speculation about Iran's role in the flooding. He said the cause of the disaster is "an overflow of corruption" that prevented the Azerbaijani government from taking timely measures to avert the disaster.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree allocating 400 million manats ($497.5 million) for emergency relief to the flooded areas. The government has not estimated the cost of the damage or the number of people homeless because of the floods.

Tents have been sent to Sabirabad and Shirvan to accommodate the estimated thousands of flood victims.

There are an estimated 12 million-18 million ethnic Azeris living in northwestern Iran in the area along the Azerbaijani border.