Nine high school students — eight girls and one boy — were killed and one was missing after they were swept away in torrential floods Thursday during a hike in Nahal Tzafit, a riverbed in the southern Dead Sea area.
Some 13 members of the group — who were taking part in a field trip organized by Bnei Tzion, a post-high school premilitary academy they had applied to — were found and retrieved by rescuers without harm, and two were lightly hurt.
Police units, the Air Force’s elite 669 rescue team and the local Arava emergency search and rescue unit mounted a massive operation to find the youths.
Soroka Hospital in Beersheba said the two injured youths were in treatment there.
One student was still missing on Thursday evening and, after darkness fell, police said that efforts to find her would be temporarily stopped so as not to endanger the rescue forces.
“We are doing everything we can to find those still missing. Some have been rescued and some are still out there. We will keep going until we find them all,” police spokesperson Meirav Lapidot told reporters at the scene earlier, when several students were still considered missing.
“We are preparing for a long night of search and rescue operations,” she said.
The Education Ministry said it was not informed of the students’ field trip.
“The trip was not reported to us, our situation room was not told in advance and we did not give any permission for such a trip,” the ministry said in a statement.
Three of the girls killed in the incident were named as Yael Sadan, a student at the The Jerusalem High School for the Arts in Jerusalem; Shani Shamir from Shoham; and Ella Or from Ma’ale Adumim. The boy killed in the incident was named as Tzur Alfi, from Mazkeret Batya.
The rain caused flash floods throughout the Negev and West Bank and battered the rest of the country for a second day in a row Thursday.
Magen David Adom paramedics treated a 40-year-old woman lightly injured when a falling tree crushed her car in the north of the country, near the Sea of Galilee.
Powerful rains fell in Eilat in the afternoon, causing flooding and shuttering the southernmost city’s airport. Route 90, the main north-south highway through the desert to the Red Sea port, was closed from the city’s entrance to the Arava Junction, close to the site where the class trip was swept away.
An IsraAir flight on its way to Eilat was diverted Thursday afternoon to the Uvda air base, with officials explaining that the runway in Eilat’s airport was too flooded to allow planes to land.
On Wednesday, two teenagers were killed in separate incidents after they were swept away by flash floods.