Flash floods in the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region are also causing property damage, the governor said.
At least eight people have died and several have been injured after torrential rains caused severe flooding in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, officials said.
Provincial Governor Omid Khoshnaw said on Friday women and children were among those killed after the heavy night swept through a number of residential areas.
“The floods also caused great material losses,” he said in a statement.
Local newspaper Rudaw quoted Khoshnaw as saying that seven people had died due to flooding and another person had lost his life in a lightning strike.
Several other people were reportedly injured, while the toll and extent of the damage were still being assessed.
Civil defense spokesman Sarkawt Karach said many people had been forced from their homes. “The search is ongoing for the missing persons,” Karach said, warning that the death toll could rise further.
In Erbil, reports said torrents of muddy water were pouring onto the roads. Buses, trucks and tankers were swept away by rainwater, some overturned on their sides.
Khoshnaw called on residents to stay at home unless necessary, warning that more rains were expected and feared further flooding.
Iraq has been hit by a succession of extreme weather events. It has endured scorching temperatures and repeated droughts in recent years, but has also seen intense flooding – made worse when torrential rains fall on sun-scorched land.
Hard ground, made worse by loss of vegetation, means the land doesn’t absorb water as quickly, and when storms hit, they can become flash floods.
Scientists say climate change is amplifying extreme weather, including droughts, as well as the potential for increased intensity of rainstorms.
Experts have warned that record rainfall, compounded by climate change, threatens to cause social and economic disaster in war-torn Iraq.