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Iran says 37 now dead in "flood of the millennium"

TEHRAN, July 28 (AFP) - Iranian officials on Thursday upped the death toll to 37 with 14 still missing after catastrophic

floods in northern Iran along the Caspian Sea earlier this week, the official IRNA news agency said.

Rescue workers are battling against time to find the remaining missing from Monday's flood, which has left more than 100 people injured.

The UN office in Tehran said the Neka River was flowing at four times the average rate for a 100-year period, indicating the epic deluge was a once-in-a-millennium occurrence.

It said more than 4,000 shops and homes were 50-100 percent destroyed and more than 4,500 hectares of forest and farmland severely damaged by the flood, brought on by what officials said was the heaviest rain in the region this century.

More than 400 kilometers (250 miles) of roads and 33 kilometers (20 miles) of railway lines were also damaged, along with some 300 irrigation wells, 50 water mills, 20 animal farms and five tobacco- drying sites.

"Practically all" of the buildings and infrastructure sites along the river were seriously damaged, it said. At least 57 bridges have been demolished, including the Neka bridge along the main road to Tehran.

The UN said it would provide 141,000 dollars in cash and supplies to assist the flood-battered region.

The raging waters tore through Manzandaran province Monday, leaving thousands homeless and without food or electricity.

On Tuesday a member of parliament charged that the flood was the result of an uncompleted dam in Neka.

The rains, which began late Sunday, came after a crippling nationwide drought that has ravaged crops and virtually obliterated the summer harvest.

The UN said the Food and Agriculture Organisation had earlier allocated some 400,000 dollars towards alleviating the drought.


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