April 2 (UPI) -- Dozens of Iranians fled their communities to escape floodwaters after rivers breached their banks, officials said Tuesday.
The Iranian army dispatched a dozen helicopters to the flooded area around Lorenstan and Iranian Brig. Gen. Kiomars Heidari said the army was moving in tactical military bridges from Ahvaz to help rescue residents in high floodwaters.
The choppers helped assess damage and rescue people who'd become trapped. The Iranian Red Crescent Society deployed a team and divers to help.
Tuesday is the third time in just two weeks Iran has dealt with dangerous flooding. Nearly 60 people have died so far from the floods, officials said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed U.S. sanctions for contributing to the crisis. He called it "economic terrorism."
"[Sanctions are] impeding aid efforts by Iranian Red Crescent to all communities," he wrote on Twitter. "Blocked equipment includes relief choppers: This isn't just economic warfare; it's economic TERRORISM."
Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi echoed the complaint.
"Given that the accounts of the Iranian Red Crescent have been blocked (due to U.S. sanctions), no foreign citizen or Iranian national living abroad (are) able to send any relief aid to flood-hit people," Qassemi told the Islamic Republic News Agency Tuesday.
Heavy rains in recent weeks have contributed to the floods, forecasters said.