Tehran, Iran — Flash floods triggered by heavy rains killed seven Iraqi tourists in northeastern Iran on Saturday, Iranian media reported, the latest in the death toll as downpours continue to batter the country.
The official IRNA news agency said the tourists were part of a group of 13 Iraqis visiting Iran. They were traveling in a packed station wagon on a road near the city of Mashhad, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) north of the capital Tehran, when a flash flood swept away their car.
Among the victims were five women and the group’s Iranian driver. Three Iraqis were missing while the other passengers managed to get to safety.
About 2 million Iraqis visit Iran each year.
Also on Saturday, Iranian authorities raised the death toll from landslides and flash floods that have engulfed the country since Thursday to 61, while eight more bodies were recovered. At least 32 people are still missing.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has visited a rescue operation center in one of the stricken villages northeast of Tehran, promising more aid for the region.
It was feared the death toll could rise even further as more bodies are discovered as the rains diminish. Thousands of people have been moved from remote areas to safer places.
Last Saturday, flash floods in Iran’s drought-stricken southern province of Fars killed at least 22 people and affected a dozen villages in the province. Authorities have warned of heavy rains and possible flooding.
This week’s storm is the deadliest among rain-related incidents in Iran 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 similar storm claimed 48 lives in northwestern Iran.
However, landslides in northern Iran in 2001 and Tehran in 1987 killed 500 and 300 people respectively.
Authorities have blamed the high death toll on disregard for safety measures by people venturing into the storms, while critics cite poor management of construction projects as well as late warnings as other causes.