Flash floods unleashed by heavy rains swept away a group of middle school students and teachers visiting hot springs near the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea on Thursday, killing 18 and injuring 35 as the torrent carried some for several kilometers, Jordan said Thursday.
A child was killed by flooding in Israel northern Negev desert earlier in the day, Israeli rescue officials said.
In Jordan, a dramatic rescue operation involving helicopters and divers continued into the night. Israel’s military said it dispatched a search and rescue team at the request of Jordan’s government.
Thirteen people escaped without injuries, said Brig. Gen. Farid al-Sharaa, speaking after nightfall as large spotlights illuminated the flooded area.
Some survived by clinging to rocks, he said.
Al-Sharaa said 37 middle school students, seven teachers and other visitors were at hot springs near the Dead Sea on Thursday afternoon, some eating lunch, when they were taken by surprise by the flooding.
“It swept away the students for 4 to 5 kilometers,” some as far as the Dead Sea, he said. The spokesman said the students were from a middle school.
Earlier, a civil defense official who asked not be named said the group was on a bus that was swept away by the flooding.
“The students were on a school trip and it appears that a mudslide along the road swept their bus away,” the official said.
The Israeli military joined in the search, sending several helicopters from the Israeli Air Force’s elite search-and-rescue Unit 669 across the border, the army said.
The Israeli Air Force deployed helicopters full of IDF search & rescue soldiers to Jordan. They assisted in the rescue of a bus of Jordanian children that was swept away in floods on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. This assistance was requested by the Jordanian Government pic.twitter.com/47yqTigdvg
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) October 25, 2018
“At this time, the soldiers are assisting in the search and rescue efforts for the missing and are doing all they can, despite the weather conditions, to assist the survivors in the flood area,” the army said.
The Air Force said after midnight that the rescue mission had returned to Israel.
In addition to the military, the Israel Police dispatched a contingent of search-and-rescue and medical specialists, as did the civilian Megillot search-and-rescue unit. The specialists later returned to Israel, though they remained on alert.
Petra reported that Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz was on the scene to oversee the rescue mission.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced that he canceled a visit to Bahrain, which had been scheduled for Friday.
Heavy rains hit Jordan on Thursday afternoon, causing floods in several areas.
Storms also battered Israel, with hail in the north of the country and heavy rains in the south.
Near the Bedouin town of Kuseife, a 4-year-old boy was killed when he was swept away by flooding. Rescuers pulled him from the water but were unable to resuscitate him, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.
The Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth, is surrounded by steep valley slopes that frequently witness flash floods and landslides.
In April, 10 Israeli students from a pre-military academy on a hike near the Dead Sea were killed when flash floods overtook their group.
Unit 669 performs search and rescue operations in both military and civilian conditions — extracting wounded soldiers from war zones and transporting car crash victims to hospitals.