Israel sends elite rescue unit to Jordan after flood kills at least 20

The flash flood claimed the lives of at least 14 children, local authorities said

A general view shows the location of the accident where rain storms unleashed flash floods, near the Dead Sea, Jordan October 26, 2018 (photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS)
A general view shows the location of the accident where rain storms unleashed flash floods, near the Dead Sea, Jordan October 26, 2018
The IDF sent forces and helicopters to assist in rescue operations at the request of Jordan on Thursday, as at least 18 people, mainly schoolchildren and teachers, were killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea.
“Upon the Jordanian government’s request, a number of IAF helicopters have taken off with soldiers from the 669 Elite Search and Rescue Unit led by the unit’s commanding officer,” the IDF said. “At the same time, troops assisted in actions to locate those missing and are doing all in their power, in spite of the adverse weather conditions, in order to assist the children in the flooded area.”
Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz was on the scene overseeing the rescue mission, state news agency Petra reported. Many of those killed were children under 14. A number of families picnicking in the popular destination were also among the dead and injured, rescuers said, without giving a breakdown of numbers.
Rescuers combed the shores of Jordan's Dead Sea resort area early on Friday to find survivors.
Thirty seven people were rescued in a major operation involving helicopters and army and divers searching for survivors of the floods which swept through valleys to the shores of the area, the lowest point on earth, Jordanian civil defense sources said.
Jordanian Police chief Brigadier General Farid al Sharaa told state television the torrential rains swept away a bus carrying 44 children and teachers who were on a school trip picnicking in the popular destination.
The national flag was lowered to half mast in mourning as public opinion and politicians began raising questions in local media outlets about the preparedness of national emergencies services to cope with such a disaster.
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said it appeared the school had broken regulations by going ahead with the trip which had been banned in the Dead Sea area because of bad weather.
An unknown number of people were still missing, hospital sources said.
A bridge on one of the cliffs of the Dead Sea had collapsed under the force of the rains, the first such after the end of the summer season.
Families of victims were searching the rugged area after search teams suspended operations overnight for a few hours, a witness said.
The region’s flooding also claimed the life of an Israeli – a four-year-old boy who died in the flash flood caused by heavy rainfall in the South. The boy died after being rescued from a reservoir near the Bedouin town of Kuseifa. He was pulled out of the water and given emergency first aid by Magen David Adom paramedics, and then rushed to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba in critical condition, where doctors pronounced his death shortly afterwards.
According to Beterem – Israel Center for Child Safety and Health, 36 Israeli children have drowned so far in 2018. The heavy rains began falling in the area of the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert around Tuesday night and continued Thursday, causing major flooding. Main roads have been closed until further notice.
The rainfall was expected to reach its peak on Thursday night. The Meteorological Service warned of the danger of flooding in the eastern and southern streams as well as the coastal plain. The rain is expected to continue until Friday morning, and then to gradually weaken and end at noon. On Saturday, temperatures are expected to rise.
The cooperation comes despite a tense week between the two countries, as Jordanian King Abdullah II elected not to renew two annexes of the 1994 peace agreement. As part of the agreement, Jordan had allowed Israel to use land in Naharayim (Baqura) near the Kinneret and part of Zofar (al Ghamar), some 120 km. north of Eilat.
Reuters, Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.