Ammar Karim, AFP
Last updated: 22 November, 2013

Iraqi floods provide Internet fodder for frustrated residents

Flooding across Iraq that has left at least 13 people dead and caused widespread structural damage has also provided rich fodder for sarcastic Iraqis bemoaning their decrepit public services.

The floodwaters, which have cut off entire areas of Baghdad and several other cities to most vehicles, were caused by several days of heavy rainfall that overwhelmed the crumbling drainage system.

Video footage posted on Facebook depicted residents of the Iraqi capital negotiating water-logged streets in life rafts or on planks of wood, armed with makeshift oars.

Edited pictures proliferated on social networks, jokingly placing crocodiles in the Baghdad floodwaters.

Another superimposed Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s characters from 1998 blockbuster film Titanic on a bus making its way through the capital’s flooded streets.

Another depicted a bikini-clad Western woman in the waters with the accompanying comment: “We have turned our neighbourhood into a tourist resort.”

Others still showed residents sitting by well-known Baghdad streets with fishing rods.

“We are so lucky,” one Facebook user commented. “We have seen how people live in Venice, despite never having visited it!”

Some have parodied a speech by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in which he blamed political opponents for the flooding, suggesting deliberate sabotage was behind the failure of the drainage system.

“I saw a political opponent standing next to the drainage system, but I did not expect that he would ruin it!” Facebook user Yassir al-Mussawi wrote, alongside accompanying pictures of his partially flooded home.

“Next time, I will arrest him and hand him over to the authorities.”

Others have mocked comments by senior Baghdad official Naim Aboub, in which he blamed the flooding on a 150 kilogramme (330 pound) rock blocking a main drain.

“Baghdad needs its own special forces regiment to protect the drains!” joked commentator Omar al-Shaher.

Mocking Iraq’s myriad of security forces, each with it own chain of command, Shaher asked: “What shall we name it? Will it belong to the Baghdad mayor’s office, or the Baghdad provincial council? I hope parliament takes care of this.”

The black humour has been accompanied by widespread frustration with the authorities over the flooding, which has caused extensive property damage.

At fault is a decrepit drainage system that, alongside an unreliable power supply and rampant corruption, is a leading complaint of ordinary Iraqis more than a decade after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

“The rains have just illustrated how bad the corruption is on projects, especially sewerage projects,” said writer Hussein al-Shammari.

“In all the provinces, projects were given to inefficient companies on the basis of nepotism,” he said.

“This is what we planted — we elected them, and they are our fruit.”

Authorities have tried to limit the disruption caused by the flooding by declaring one-off public holidays. They resorted to the same tactic when heavy rains sparked similar flooding in December last year.

Heavy rains also hit neighbouring Saudi Arabia earlier this week, sparking widespread flooding in the capital Riyadh and the northeastern city of Arar that left seven people dead.