Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province is struggling to emerge from back-to-back power outages which have severely disrupted life and led to expressions of discontent with local authorities and the government.
For quite a while, the province has been reeling from sandstorms which are said to originate in Iraq and Saudi Arabia but a combination of events recently have brought Khuzestan to the brink of virtual collapse.
Heavy rains have washed filaments of dust and sand into power transmission equipment, leading to long outages. Water supplies are not unscathed, crippling life in the provincial capital Ahvaz and other cities.
The critical situation has sparked a chorus of commiseration among many Iranians, who have directed their criticism at the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.
On Saturday, Rouhani attended an emergency session of the Crisis Management Center in Tehran where he tasked his deputy Es'haq Jahangiri, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli and Khuzestan Governor Gholamreza Shariati with resolving the crisis at the earliest.
Iranian First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri (C) and other officials are seen during an emergency session of the Crisis Management Center in Tehran on February 18, 2017. (Photo by IRNA)
The president tried to soothe anger among locals, hailing them for their “patience”. Rouhani said the problem is a formidable one which has to be addressed outside Iran's borders.
The photo shows the heavy haze in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran, February 18, 2017. (Photo by Tasnim news agency)
“Right after the failures, the government tried to take all possible measure to reduce damage by sending concerned ministers to the province and mobilizing all its facilities,” the president said, referring to power outages and water cuts.
He also expressed sympathy with those affected and assured local people that the government was determined to address the root cause of the problems and deal with environmental issues.
Minister of Agriculture Mahmoud Hojjati said the government plans to carry out plantation on 30,000-40,000 hectares of land in Khuzestan in a bid to contain the formation of dust storms.
Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian also visited water and electricity facilities in Ahvaz, pledging that his office was doing its best to resolve the problems as soon as possible.
Chitchian said power transmission lines have to be washed and dusted across the board and necessary measures taken to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.