Fighter jets damaged in weekend flooding; repairs to cost tens of millions
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Fighter jets damaged in weekend flooding; repairs to cost tens of millions

Military says heavy storms filled hangars at southern air force base before troops could get planes to safety

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A control tower in the Ovda air force base in Israel's southern Negev desert, November 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A control tower in the Ovda air force base in Israel's southern Negev desert, November 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several fighter jets were damaged last week as heavy rains flooded their hangars, the military acknowledged Sunday, following attempts to have the information censored.

The repairs were expected to cost tens of millions of shekels.

“A number of planes were damaged. They will be repaired and will return to flight in the coming days,” the military said.

Last week saw major flooding along the coast and in the Negev desert. According to the Israel Defense Forces, an undisclosed air force base in southern Israel was hit hard by the storm as nearby streams flooded, sending huge volumes of rainwater toward the covered hangars where the fighter jets were stored.

A photograph of one of the planes, an F-16 fighter jet, in a flooded hangar was shared widely on social media on Sunday evening after the military censor allowed Israeli outlets to report on the incident.

The military would not specify the precise number and varieties of aircraft damaged by the flooding.

Channel 12 news reported that several mechanics needed to be rescued from the flooded hangars as well, with waters reaching more than one and a half meters (4.5 feet) in depth. The IDF would not immediate confirm that report, but said that no soldiers were injured in the flood.

A military vehicle carries people across a flooded road in the northern city of Nahariya on January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

The military said staff on the air force base pumped the rainwater out of the hangars over the weekend.

Last Wednesday, an Israeli man — Moti Ben Shabbat, 38 — was killed by floodwaters in the north as he tried to rescue a mother and child trapped in their car. Earlier this month, two people died in Tel Aviv, after they were trapped in a flooded elevator.

Shabbat’s death was the seventh in a season that has seen some areas of the country repeatedly deluged in downpours.

The rainfall caused extensive flooding in Nahariya, a coastal city of some 50,000 near the Lebanon border.

Tractors and military vehicles were used to help transport residents across the water-filled streets as they became trapped by rising waters.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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