One dead as heavy rains flood northern Israel

The man was reportedly swept away while attempting to save a woman and her child during the storm.

A vehicle submerged in water in northern Israel as a result of heavy rains (photo credit: OHAD AMITON/TPS)
A vehicle submerged in water in northern Israel as a result of heavy rains
(photo credit: OHAD AMITON/TPS)
The stormy weather has returned to Israel, taking the life of 32-year-old Motti Ben Shabat, who was found dead in Nahariya after being reported missing for several hours.
MDA paramedic Eran Friedlander said: "We arrived with the ambulance at the beach near the marina. About 100 meters north of the Ga'aton stream estuary on the waterline, we saw the man was unconscious, without a pulse and not breathing."
He continued, saying that "the sea was very turbulent and very large amounts of water flowed around us. We evacuated the man from the shore on a field stretcher while performing CPR, to the ambulance where we continued to give treatment in the form of CPR and medication – but unfortunately, we had to [declare] his death."
A friend of Ben Shabat's from Nahariya, who witnessed the incident, told Channel 12 News that. "he jumped to save the guys. There was a guy in the car who drowned. He jumped into the water, and the current pulled him into the car and he disappeared inside after that. Now we already know he is at sea. We are mourning and hurt; I've known him from childhood. "
He criticized the events leading up to death of his friend: "The infrastructure is in a catastrophic situation; from disaster to disaster, you learn nothing. The car was trying to turn away from the flood, but got cornered and things escalated from there."
School has been canceled in Nahariya and in the Matte Asher and Ma'ale Yosef regional councils.
Nahariya Mayor Ronen Marelli released an update on the stormy weather, saying "Nahariya residents, firstly, we have one dead. I extend my condolences to the family. And hope that no more lives will be lost. The city is currently closed from north and the south of the Gaaton stream can not be crossed in any way that doesn't involve search and rescue teams. The Israel Police are currently in charge of this incident. There are several forces on the scene for support, mainly to help residents of the north side of the city to its south side.
"I ask in the strongest of terms - those who have nothing to do outside, do not go outside. Let's hope we can now rescue the children at Ussishkin Elementary School. If we can do that we will be full control of the situation. To the parents I say we are keeping their children safe and once things calm down we will extract and drive them home. Until then, help is available through standard modes of contact. If rescue is needed we will arrive, and leave the roads open."
"They just now put the first graders on a military truck," Sahar, the mother of one of the children, told Channel 12 News, ."Only later they will take the older students. We were informed that they could be picked up, but by then we could not reach the school. "
The Nahariya municipality released a statement on Facebook following the event, warning citizens not to leave their homes.
"Due to harsh weather conditions, residents are asked not to leave their homes. There are many city blocks and municipal staff working in collaboration with security forces and first responders in the area. You can contact the municipal hotline 106. More updates later," the Nahariya's municipality's Facebook page says.
In addition to the five casualties so far – including during last week's winter storm – floods, roadblocks, and road and rail congestion have also returned.
In Tel Aviv, police and volunteers helped civilians who got stuck in puddles and couldn't get out on Wednesday night. On Kaplan St. in Tel Aviv, a balcony on the first floor of a building collapsed. No one was injured in the incident. All roads in the city were open on Thursday morning.
Areas that may flood will be closed off by police. Israel Police asked drivers to drive carefully and not to enter puddles when it's unclear how deep they are, in a statement on Thursday.
In Ashdod, storms caused a power outage and some 60,000 people were cut off and left in the dark. However, by 7pm, electricity was back in order. The power outage has caused elevator malfunctions in buildings across the city.
Emergency services and local authorities have reinforced in preparation for the storm, as police blocked roads in the north of Israel for fear of flooding and Israel Rail reported disruptions after the Haifa railroad was flooded.
To add to the winter woes, lower altitude areas of Mount Hermon are expected to receive around 10 cm. of snowfall Wednesday night, and there are reports of those weather conditions continuing into the next day. Snow also fell in the Golan Heights, where educational institutions were evacuated due to stacked snow and other severe weather conditions.
Rainfall is expected to fall in waves accompanied by thunderstorms, mainly in the northern and central districts of Israel.
There have also been flood warnings in the regions surrounding the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, and an urgent fear of flooding in the coastal plains and lowlands.
Since Thursday morning, over 5,000 calls to have been made to the emergency hotline 100 following the weather, twice as much as on a "normal" day, with most of the requests being linked to roadside assistance and congestion.
In response to the weather, the fire and rescue commissioner ordered operational reinforcements to all fire stations in the vicinity – including regional drones, the Lehava diving unit, and a provision of volunteer units on full alert.
The Tzfat municipality reports that heavy rain has been decreasing since nightfall. Last night, the municipality conducted a status assessment and even carried out cleaning of all drainage channels. In addition, the municipality distributed heating equipment for the elderly and welfare supporters.
With regards to life-saving operations, the first responders in the region have been quite busy.
In Haifa, Magen David Adom staff helped rescue a driver who was stuck inside his car in a deep puddle on Ha'atzmaut Street, using an MDA Jeep and a towing cable. It was later discovered that the victim was a doctor at one of the city's hospitals.
In Nahariya, the fire department rescued fifteen kindergartners in addition to staff from their flooded school.
Following the tragedy of the couple that drowned in a short-circuited elevator in Tel Aviv, The Fire and Rescue Commission warned that in the event of floods, do not use parking lots, floors or elevators below ground level.
Residents who reside on ground floors are advised to move immediately to safe places above ground level in the event of a flood.
The Israeli police are also preparing for the inclement weather by beefing up rescue units and strengthening the forces of police, firefighters and volunteers, who would be deployed in the event of torrential downpours. Police and air rescue units will also be on high alert until the weather subsides.
In addition, special preparations have been made by the Tel Aviv municipality to combat potential flooding disasters. City staff have placed sandbags in neighborhoods most likely to be affected by flooding, and have cleaned receptors and drainage channels to accommodate the large onset of rain.
The municipality is also organizing evacuation plans for residents; if necessary, they will place containers of survival equipment around the area, open training centers for residents and strengthen response positions at the municipal center.
Last week, 25-year-olds Stav Harari and Dean Shoshani tragically drowned in Tel Aviv, when the elevator they were in got stuck in the basement as a result of an electric short circuit and was flooded shortly thereafter, trapping them.
On Sunday, the body of 72-year-old Eran Herrnstadt was found inside his vehicle, which was set adrift by the flood and was discovered in Binyamina in the North, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Ma’ariv reported. Rescue workers pronounced him dead at the scene.
Ali Agbaria’s body was found in the Dalia Stream in the North following a search of the area, the Israel Police reported Monday morning, after he was reported missing a day earlier. The man found drowned in Nahariya became the fifth weather-related casualty in the past week of storms.
Translated by Zachary Keyser; Idan Zonshine and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.