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Iran Says Floods Killed 76, Caused $2.2 Billion In Damage

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A view of the Karun River, which burst its banks in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan, on April 9

Floods caused by heavy rain across Iran have killed 76 people and caused more than $2.2 billion in damage over the past several weeks, officials say.

"With the death of five people in the [southwestern] Khuzestan Province flood and another person in [western] Ilam Province, the death toll has now reached 76" since March 19, a statement published online on April 14 by the coroner's office said.

The two provinces are the latest affected by floods that first hit the northeast of the usually arid Iran, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate from cities and villages.

The floods have caused immense damage to buildings, roads, infrastructure, and agriculture.

"Twenty-five [out of 31] provinces and more than 4,400 villages across the country were hit by the floods," Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli told parliament, the official IRNA news agency reported.

He said the damages amount to between 300 and 350 trillion rials -- between $2.2 and $2.6 billion at the free-market rate.

Transport Minister Mohammad Eslami, meanwhile, told lawmakers that 725 bridges were destroyed and more than 14,000 kilometers of roads suffered damage from floodwaters and landslides.

President Hassan Rohani has promised compensation to all those affected by the floods, but Iran's state budget is already stretched as U.S. sanctions have badly hit the Iranian economy.

Morteza Shahidzadeh, the head of Iran's sovereign wealth fund, said that the president had asked permission from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to withdraw $2 billion from the fund for reconstruction in flood-hit areas.

Iran has received aid from neighboring countries and further afield, with France on April 13 donating 210 tents and 114 pumps.

On April 14, the Tasnim news agency, which is linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported that a convoy of 50 vehicles carried members of Iraqi Shi'ite militia into western Iran to help with flood relief.

Earlier, Iran's ambassador in Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, said that hundreds of Iraqi militiamen had been deployed to Khuzestan and Lorestan provinces.

The floods have prompted angry demonstrations by Iranians over the government's response to the crisis.

Iran's hard-liners have also accused Rohani's government of not doing enough to tackle the disaster.

With reporting by AFP and IRNA
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