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At least 18 killed, mostly schoolchildren, as flashfloods sweep Dead Sea area

 

By Hana Namrouqa, The Jordan Times

 

AMMAN — At least 18 people died and 34 were injured and rescued by Thursday evening from flashfloods in the hot springs area near the Dead Sea as the country witnessed heavy quick rain, according to authorities.
 
The Civil Defence Department (CDD) said it was no longer sure on the number of those missing, indicating that 44 students and teachers from a private school in Amman were swept away with the water, in addition to an unidentified number of families at the site.
 
A total of 2,000 personnel from military and civil state agencies participated in the large scale rescue operation, in addition to 100 rescue machineries, four helicopters and several boats, which were roaming the lake of the Dead Sea in search for survivors or victims, according to the CDD.
 
“This is a major rescue operation involving personnel from different state agencies as well as several rescue helicopters and boats, marine divers and swimmers, who are on site now to rescue trapped people and search for missing ones,” an officer at the CDD’s press department told The Jordan Times over the phone.
 
Authorities started searching for survivors around 2:00pm when heavy rain was still pouring, according to a CDD officer, who underscored that the search path starts from the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea and stretches down over five to six kilometres of very tough topography and water valleys.
 
The press officer said there was no information, yet, on the age of those killed in the flashflood and highlighted that those rescued suffered mild to serious injuries.
 
A doctor operating at the Southern Shouneh Public Hospital, where all the dead and the injured were transferred to before being re-transferred to Al Bashir Public Hospital in Amman, said that the “bodies kept on coming”.
 
“Ambulances were coming and leaving, dropping dead people and dropping injured people from different ages. By 7:00pm we had 10 dead bodies and 11 mildly injured people,” the doctor at the hospital’s emergency room told The Jordan Times over the phone.
 
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz and senior government and army officials oversaw the rescue operation, and instructed state agencies on Thursday to provide all needed assistance to ensure the safety of the students and those trapped.
 
“The number of those killed in the flashflood was expected to increase because many were reported to have been swept away by the raging water,” the officer said.
 
Razzaz ordered an immediate probe into the accident to determine responsibility, amid reports that the school violated the regulations of the Education Ministry. 
 
Rain, floods and accidents
 
The Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD) announced on Monday that a depression and a relatively cold air mass were expected to affect the country as of Thursday, head of the JMD’s weather forcasting said on Thursday.
 
“Almost all of the country witnessed heavy rain and flash floods were formed in many parts, including Amman,” Rafed told The Jordan Times.
 
Streets were inundated causing suffocating traffic jam across the capital’s streets, while the storm produced large hail stones that smashed windows of some cars in Ajloun, according to JMD’s Facebook page.
 
“Strong gusty winds, with speed reaching 100 kilometres per hour in Ruweished, in the eastern desert, and 70 kilomtres per hour in other parts, reduced road visibility in the south and east of the country, prompting many motorists to park their cars on the side of the road, while the Public Security Department (PSD) stopped traffic on the Zara Maeen-Dead Sea road and urged motorists to drive with maximum alertness on the Desert Highway, which connects Amman to Aqaba and other southern towns, due to heavy dust.
 
The PSD said on Thursday that 15 people were injured in a pile up accidents on the Desert Highway, while the CDD press office reported that one man died in Maan in a separate traffic accident.
 
The heavy rain also forced the Jordan Water Company (Miyahuna) to suspend pumping water from some of its water sources in Madaba.
 
“Miyahuna shut down water pumping from Waleh and Heidan wells in Madaba because of high murkiness of water,” an official at the company told The Jordan Times, noting that this will have a slight impact on the water distribution programme in Amman.
 

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