Death toll in flash flood tragedy rises to 10 after last missing teen found
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Israeli leaders mourn terrible loss of young lives

Death toll in flash flood tragedy rises to 10 after last missing teen found

High school graduates swept away on hike along riverbed in southern Dead Sea area; heads of their pre-army academy could face negligent homicide charges

  • Volunteers from the ZAKA emergency response service transport the bodies of Israeli teenagers killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (ZAKA)
    Volunteers from the ZAKA emergency response service transport the bodies of Israeli teenagers killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (ZAKA)
  • Shani Shamir of Shoham, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
    Shani Shamir of Shoham, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
  • Romi Cohen of Maor, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
    Romi Cohen of Maor, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
  • Ella Or of Ma'aleh Adumim, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
    Ella Or of Ma'aleh Adumim, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
  • Tzur Alfi of Mazkeret Batya, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
    Tzur Alfi of Mazkeret Batya, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
  • Yael Sadan of Jerusalem, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
    Yael Sadan of Jerusalem, who was killed in a flash flood in the south during a school trip on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)
  • A military helicopter searches for missing hikers near the Dead Sea, southern Israel, April 26, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    A military helicopter searches for missing hikers near the Dead Sea, southern Israel, April 26, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • A woman cries alongside police officers outside the Benny Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, which organized a field trip in which 9 youths were killed earlier in the day, April 26, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    A woman cries alongside police officers outside the Benny Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, which organized a field trip in which 9 youths were killed earlier in the day, April 26, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)
    A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)

Flash floods killed 10 Israeli teenagers who were hiking south of the Dead Sea on Thursday. Nine of their bodies were found in the course of the afternoon and evening, and the 10th was discovered early on Friday morning.

The 10 were in a group of 25 students on a hike organized by Tel Aviv’s Bnei Zion pre-military academy. They were due to start the program in the coming year, and the hike was intended as a pre-program bonding excursion.

The hike went ahead despite warnings of life-threatening weather conditions. Nine young women and one young man were killed when the group was hit by flash floods in the Tzafit Stream, a riverbed in the southern Dead Sea area.

Police launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

The head of the Bnei Zion program and two staff members were questioned by police late Thursday. According to unconfirmed reports, they are suspected of negligent homicide for taking students on the hike despite flood warnings in the area.

Yael Sadan of Jerusalem, who was killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)

Authorities confirmed the deaths of the first nine victims on Thursday evening, and said rescue teams were still working to locate a young woman missing since the incident. Early Friday morning, her body was reported found near Neot Hakikar, south of the Dead Sea.

Two students were lightly to moderately injured, and the other 13 in the group were located and rescued unharmed.

Romi Cohen of Maor, who was killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)

The 10 fatalities were identified as of Friday morning as Shani Shamir from the central city of Shoham; Ella Or from Ma’ale Adumim; Maayan Barhum and Yael Sadan from Jerusalem; Tzur Alfi, the only boy who was killed, from the central town of Mazkeret Batya; Agam Levy from the central Israeli town of Herut; Romi Cohen of Maor, near Hadera; Gali Balali from the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim; Adi Raanan of the northern Israel moshav of Mikhmoret; and Ilan Bar Shalom of Rishon Lezion.

One of the teens who survived the ordeal said he watched as a three-meter-high wave washed away his friends.

“I saw bodies floating in the water. I didn’t know if they were alive, or if what I saw was bodies,” they boy told Hadashot news through his father, identified as Nissim.

Tzur Alfi of Mazkeret Batya, who was killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)

“At one point there was a wave that was three or four meters high,” the young man told his father. “I was holding on to one of my friends really tight… but we couldn’t cope with the massive flow of water.

“She slipped away from me in front of my eyes,” he told his father.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other lawmakers expressed condolences to the families of the nine teenagers Thursday evening.

“The State of Israel mourns the promising young lives that were cut short by this tragedy in the Arava,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

Ella Or of Ma’ale Adumim, who was killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed condolences over the “heavy tragedy,” and said his ministry would remain in contact with the deceased students’ high schools in the coming days.

President Reuven Rivlin said the entire country was “mourning the loss of young promising lives in the heavy disaster.” He said Israel “embraces” the grieving families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Shani Shamir of Shoham, who was killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (Facebook)

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov also expressed condolences for the tragedy, saying his “thoughts and prayers are with all in #Israel and the families of the nine children, who were tragically killed in torrential rains today around #NahalTzafit.”

“Incredible rescue teams have saved fifteen children and continue their work,” he said in a tweet.

A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)
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