Torrential rains kill four young hikers

Group ignored park wardens' warnings to reach safe ground; 7 others rescued.

flooding good, ap 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
flooding good, ap 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Four young rappelers were swept away and drowned Saturday afternoon after ignoring warnings that a flash flood was rushing toward them through the narrow walls of Nahal Qumran. The bodies of Dror Koren, Noa Shapira, Tal Alon, and Amit Gottlieb, were only recovered hours after the floodwaters slammed into them while their horrified friends looked on. Police said that the group of 11 rappelers had set out on a hike in the hills near Qumran above the northern Dead Sea early Saturday morning. The adventurers told police that when they had set out, the weather was pleasant, but changed dramatically around noon. Meteorologists had forecast rain for the weekend. Ofir, a 29-year-old photographer and flash flood "chaser," arrived at the top of the wadi about half an hour before the flood struck to photograph the dry riverbed turning into a thundering waterfall. He said that upon arriving at the cliff face, he and his companions saw the rappelers below, and warned them that a flash flood was en route. The climbers, he said, disregarded his admonitions and those of park wardens who warned the climbers to reach high ground. Ofir said that he and his companions had called the Ein Gedi rescue team, who told them that they would not be able to rescue the rappelers. "We began to yell at the people to leave, but four decided to continue to rappel. Their friends even yelled back at us: 'What are you doing? These people are rappeling instructors, they know what to do,'" Ofir recalled hours after the tragedy. "We saw the dust that precedes such floods, and we yelled down to them that the water was coming. The flood came right after, and we saw their packs floating in the water and knew that barring a miracle, there was no way that they could have survived," he said. "When a flash flood hits, it's like a bus hitting you at 100 kph," said Ofir. "It's like millions of buses' worth of water coming down all at once." "We told them that they were going to die, but they didn't listen," Ofir said. "I saw these people and knew that they were going to die, and they didn't listen to me. I felt so helpless." Eventually, IAF helicopters helped the Megilot rescue unit, Ma'aleh Adumim police volunteers and Magen David Adom locate and recover the bodies of the four. Shortly afterwards, a group of 14 hikers was rescued from a flash flood at Nahal Hatzatzon, also near the Dead Sea, after contacting emergency teams. The intense flooding also forced the closure of Highway 90 along the Dead Sea shore between Halido Junction and Ein Gedi.•