Key roads to southern Israel and Eilat reopen after rain and flooding

Route 90 once again safe enough for travel; many visitors to the south became stuck as numerous roads were closed down

An illustrative photo of Route 12, which crosses through the Eilat Mountains in southern Israel, February 15, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of Route 12, which crosses through the Eilat Mountains in southern Israel, February 15, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Key roads to and from Eilat reopened Wednesday night, after heavy rain and the danger of flash floods led to multiple road closures in the country’s south.

Police announced that Route 90, which runs along the Jordan Valley to Israel’s southernmost city, was reopening as conditions became safe enough to travel.

The closures led many people enjoying the Passover holiday in Eilat, the Negev and Sinai Peninsula to become trapped there, and caused significant traffic jams on roads. Police urged the public not to attempt dangerous crossings of roads with running water and to stay away until conditions normalized.

The risk of flash floods remained in the south and was not expected to end before Thursday and authorities warned hikers to stay away from riverbeds.

A number of national parks in the south were closed or partially closed due to the potential danger of sudden torrents of water.

On Tuesday rescue workers found the bodies of a brother and sister who went missing after their car was carried away by a flash flood in the south a day earlier.

The two fatalities were identified as Ma’ayan Assor, 24, and Sahar Assor, 17,  residents of the northern city of Tiberias.

Ma’ayan Assor, 25, (left) and Sahar Assor, 17 (right) who were killed when they were swept away in floods in southern Israel on April 10, 2023 (Courtesy)

A third woman who was with them — Ma’ayan’s girlfriend, who has not been publicly named — was located and rescued.

Nini Assor, the siblings’ father, said Wednesday that Sahar had managed to send them their location before the connection was lost and that miraculously, another of his children had not been in the car with them.

“We went to Eilat in two cars and split up along the way,” he said. “My son, my daughter and his girlfriend were driving along Highway 40 and we were driving through the Arava Highway, when they got caught in the flood.”

“When the torrential rain started, my daughter was in contact with my wife. She told us what was happening. We understand that [Ma’ayan] lost control of the car when he got caught in the flood,” Nini said. “[Sahar] managed to send us their location at the last minute, but then the connection was lost.”

Nini said that he and his wife Kinneret have two more sons, and it had been planned that one of the boys would switch vehicles when they stopped for a break, and join Sahar and Ma’ayan for the next leg of the journey.

“We sat and ate and then there was suddenly rain so we quickly got into the car and he stayed with us,” Nini said. “One set of rain saved us from a bigger disaster, but the other rain took our two [children].”

Ma’ayan’s girlfriend, 21, was in good condition, though she was suffering from mild hypothermia, the MDA ambulance service said.

Recounting the ordeal to paramedics, she said the car was swept from the road by a powerful torrent. As the car began to fill with water, the group abandoned the vehicle.

She said she was carried by the stream multiple kilometers as she sought to keep her head above water, before finally finding refuge on rocks by the side of the stream.

Earlier Monday, three women caught up in a flood in their vehicle near Eilat were rescued and transported to Yoseftal Hospital in the city for frostbite treatment, police said.

The military said Israeli Air Force helicopters and forces from the IDF’s Unit 669, a combat rescue and evacuation force, rescued multiple civilians Monday night across southern Israel, in cooperation with the Israel Police, Magen David Adom medics, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, and regional rescue units.

Authorities urged “citizens to show responsibility and not go near the flood areas.”

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