Firemen pull driver from car submerged in rain-flooded Haifa underpass
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Firemen pull driver from car submerged in rain-flooded Haifa underpass

Vehicle is trapped in notorious section of city road; safety system that stops traffic when water level rises reportedly fails

Firefighters rescued a man Saturday night in Haifa after he became trapped in his vehicle, which was submerged underwater in an underpass that is notorious for flooding in heavy rain and where a driver died two years ago in similar circumstances.

The flooding came as storms dumped dozens of millimeters of rain across the country over the weekend.

As some 15 millimeters of rain poured down in the Haifa area, the underpass on Halutzei Hata’asiya Street in the city filled with water.

A car that entered the passage was caught at the bottom of the underpass, trapping the driver inside.

Firemen from a local station rushed to the scene and one officer, attached to a safety rope, swam out to the trapped driver to pull him from the car and help him up on to the roof. The pair waited on top of the car until more rescuers paddled out in a rubber dingy to bring them both back to safety.

Emergency services then searched the passage for anyone else who may have been trapped.

The underpass regularly floods in heavy rain. The passage is equipped with a sensor system that is supposed to close the road when the water level becomes dangerous. It was unclear why the system failed to operate on Saturday night.

In December 2016 a truck driver, 74, was taken to Rambam Medical Center in critical condition, suffering from hypothermia, after he was found on the back seat of his vehicle, which had been trapped in the same underpass due to rain flooding. He was later declared dead.

The rainstorms were expected to continue Sunday, before tapering off starting Sunday night.

Also Saturday, Israeli authorities shut some parts of a major road near the Dead Sea for several hours over fears of flash floods from nearby streams. Police shut Route 90 in both directions from Ein Bokek to Ein Gedi early Saturday afternoon, but opened it several hours later.

Route 234 in the western Negev in southern Israel near Kibbutz Tze’elim and a section of Route 40 were also closed for several hours over flooding fears.

Flash flood alerts have periodically been issued for the Dead Sea area over the past month, specifically in riverbeds and other low-lying areas.

Police had warned ahead of the weekend rainstorm that other parts of Route 90 may be at risk of collapse due to the flash flooding, and told drivers to exercise extreme caution when driving in the area.

The Nature and Parks Authority has in recent weeks responded to over a dozen incidents in which hikers required rescue due to floods.

In neighboring Jordan, 32 people have been killed in flash floods in recent weeks in the Dead Sea and Petra regions.

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