Potent winter storm dumps record rainfall on South

Second Arava flood victim's body recovered.

January 20, 2010 00:29
3 minute read.
Potent winter storm dumps record rainfall on South

arava water reservoir. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The body found by rescue teams on Tuesday morning in Nahal Arava was positively identified as 58-year-old Yoram Hochman. The missing jeep was also located earlier on Tuesday.

Hochman went missing Monday afternoon when the jeep he was driving got caught in a flood and overturned in Nahal Arava.

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Flash floods caused by torrential rains led to one fatality and several injuries on Monday as motorists and hikers were swept away by sudden downpours that turned the desert in the Arava region into a river-like landscape.

A 55-year-old woman drowned when her jeep overturned at Nahal Arava after being caught up in floodwaters. She was identified as Sarah Noi Fugel of Moshav Orot, situated in the Be'er Tuvia Regional Council.

Fugel's brothers Yoram and Alex Hochman were in the jeep, and Alex was rescued with light injuries.

Eyewitnesses said the jeep had attempted to cross the Arava stream, which had become swollen with floodwater, before being dragged a kilometer downstream by powerful currents.

Nearby, four people stranded in a truck that had been washed away by floods at Nahal Arava were airlifted to safety on Monday night by soldiers from the IDF's 669 rescue unit. Television news programs broadcast dramatic live footage of the airlifts.

All four people were said to be in good condition. The truck had been stranded under high voltage power lines, hindering the airlift. The Israel Electric Corp. cut the power lines, enabling the choppers to move in.

Under the command of Head of Southern Police Operations Dep.-Cmdr. Peretz Amar, police officers and border policemen activated an emergency flood program, creating command and control centers to coordinate rescue efforts in the Ramat Hanegev and Arava regional councils.

Many roads in the South were closed during the storm, and the Nitzana bridge in the Arava region collapsed under the weight of the heavy rain. Eilat was cut off from the rest of the country for a while on Monday as the only highway leading to the city was closed.

Eilat rescue teams brought two people to safety in Nahal Tzichor Monday afternoon, Israel Radio reported. Three people were rescued overnight Sunday and Monday morning from two different trucks that were stranded by water in the Arava's Nahal Faran, and two IDF officers trapped in the Nitzana area were also rescued.

Route 90, leading from the Dead Sea hotels to the Center, Route 40 and Route 211 in the Negev were closed to traffic. Route 234 leading to the Tze'elim bridge was also shut. The Nitzana, Tzin, Revivim, Besor Haroe'h and Beersheba streams were reported to be overflowing.

All schools in the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council were closed because of the floods.

The Southern District Police was on high alert throughout the day, and warned drivers not to try to cross flooded desert streams.

The storm struck Egypt with equal force, causing a sailboat to capsize on the Nile river in the southern city of Aswan, killing a British tourist. The Briton's wife, the ship's captain and two other tourists survived the accident, Egyptian authorities said.

Heavy rains washed away a dozen mud brick homes in southern Egypt, killing two women. In the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, a 24-year-old Egyptian woman drowned when flooding swept her off a main road, according to the state news agency.

Flooding also wiped out large sections of a major road in the southern Sinai Peninsula, severing electricity and communication lines in Sharm e-Sheikh and al-Tor, and destroyed two dozen homes in Ras Sudr, said Muhammad Fayez, the head of emergency services in southern Sinai.

In northern Sinai, officials at the provincial operation room dealing with the crisis said the flooding had destroyed over 100 homes and many village huts.

Muhammad al-Kiki, a local government official, said a flash flood overcame a dam and was fast approaching the provincial capital, El-Arish. One man was killed in the floods, close to the border with Israel.

Jerusalem Post Staff and AP contributed to this report.

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