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    29-Oct-2018

MPs call for resignation of ministers in Dead Sea tragedy aftermath

 

The Jordan Times

 

AMMAN — Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh on Sunday decided to hold a general discussion session on Tuesday to review the Dead Sea incident.
 
Flashfloods led to 21 fatalities and dozens of injuries on Thursday, mostly among schoolchildren from an Amman-based private school. 
 
Tarawneh’s decision was made during a meeting of the House’s Education Committee to listen to the ministers of interior, education, tourism, public works and water, who reviewed their respective ministries’ procedures in dealing with the incident’s aftermath, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
 
The meeting saw tension when a number of MPs, including the speaker, showed their dismay over ministers’ accounts of incident.
 
Other angry deputies even requested that the education and tourism ministers submit their resignations.
 
At its second meeting on Sunday, a committee set up by Prime Minister Omar Razzaz listened to testimonies by senior officials on the Dead Sea incidents and decided to refer all the reports it receives to independent technical committees for evaluation, Petra reported. 
 
Minister of Water and Irrigation Raed Abul Saud challenged accusations, mostly over social media, that the cause of the tragedy was that ministry’s staff “opened the gates of Zarqa Maeen Dam”, on the day of the incident. He said the claims are “utterly false”.
 
The small dam, he said, had only 25 per cent of its capacity on the day of the incident. Besides, he added, the “dam does not have gates anyway,” he said.
 
He said a photo shared on social media showing the opening of a dam’s gate is three years old and it showed the cleaning of Mujib Dam.
 
As for Zarqa Maeen Dam, the only release channel is a 500cm-diametre pipe that sends water at a rate of 50 metres/minute for the benefit of surrounding farms. These farms are still intact and had there been a flood, they would have been badly damaged, the minister argued, according to Petra. 
 
In line with the committee’s decision, a panel of experts from the Jordan Engineering Association and the Construction Contractors Association will scrutinise the minister’s statement. 
 
For his part, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Mubarak Abu Yamin said he had held a meeting earlier in the morning with representatives of the Jordan Free and Development Zones Group, the Royal Scientific Society and Jordan Valley Authority to “identify jurisdiction in the Zarqa Maeen area”, adding that a report would be ready in two days. 
 
Education Minister Azmi Mahafzah said that a committee was investigating the permission given to the school to send the trip to the Dead Sea, noting that all school trips had been suspended till further notice. 
 
Minister of Public Works and Housing Falah Omoush pointed out a tender that will be floated next week to rehabilitate the bridges on the Dead Sea road. 
 
Also on Sunday, Social Development Minister Basma Ishaqat directed concerned officials at the ministry to form voluntary teams of psychologists to offer support for the families of victims and surviving students.
 
Ishaqat said that there is social responsibility towards the victims’ families and those who survived the incident.
 
The psychological trauma suffered by the survivors and the families of the victims of the Dead Sea flashfloods has prompted mental health experts to volunteer and offer their support. 
 
“We are experts and we always have a responsibility towards our society,” Ahmad Alshakhanba, one of the volunteering experts told The Jordan Times in an interview over the phone on Saturday, adding: “This is the least we could offer following what they have endured during the crisis.” 
 

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