Man killed in Nahariya flood as heavy rains swamp north

Eyewitnesses say 38-year-old was trying to rescue passengers of an overturned car in coastal town when floodwaters carried him away

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

A man swept away by flooding was found dead Wednesday in the northern city of Nahariya as heavy rains inundated parts of the country.

Quoting eyewitnesses, police said the man, 38, was carried away by floodwaters as he tried to rescue the passengers of a car that overturned in a pool of water.

His body was later found following searches by emergency services. None of the passengers of the vehicle were hurt, police added.

The man was later named as Moti Ben Shabbat of Nahariya.

The death was the seventh in a season that has seen some areas of the country repeatedly deluged in downpours. The wet weather system was expected to last until Friday and also slam Tel Aviv, where two people died on Saturday when they became trapped in a flooded elevator.

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

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

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

The flooding also left some 100 students at an elementary school in the city trapped there since the morning, according to Channel 12 news.

“They told us that it was possible to come pick up [the kids] but there is no way for us to get to the school,” a mother of a student there told the network.

She said military vehicles had arrived to take first graders away from the school and would then take older students.

Nahariya Mayor Ronen Marley said preparations for the storm were taken beforehand, but the Ga’aton River that runs along the city’s main street was unable to absorb all the rain.

“The city is cut off. There is a natural disaster here and the river can’t hold all this water,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

Marley also said it was the responsibility of the government “to solve the problem of absorbing water from the Ga’aton.”

Residents of Nahariya were advised to stay indoors until the storm passed.

Earlier, emergency services rescued 15 children from a flooded kindergarten in the city.

Dozens of dogs were rescued from an animal shelter in the city that was flooded, the Ynet news site reported.

A car drives in a flooded road in the northern Israeli city of Nahariyya, on a stormy winter day, on January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Due to the weather conditions, the Education Ministry cancelled classes Thursday in Nahariya and in a number of other nearby cities and regional councils.

In Ashdod, a Mediterranean city in the south, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said it received numerous calls of people stuck in elevators due to a power outage.

“MDA teams are on their way to help people, some of whom are suffering from shortness of breath and anxiety,” it said.

The Israel Airports Authority said though it was not currently expecting any disruptions at Ben Gurion Airport due to the stormy weather, travelers should be prepared for possible delays.

It also said it was working to clear objects from the “operational area” of the airport that could damage airplanes if carried away by the wind.

Meanwhile, heavy snow fell on the Golan Heights, prompting the Golan Regional Council to order a closure of regional schools while providing buses to transport children back to their home communities. Some tutoring was to be continued locally in the communities until conditions clear.

Torrential rain poured on the northern port city of Haifa, with some 50 millimeters (two inches) falling during the morning hours, causing flooding that blocked many streets in the city and surrounding areas. Some drivers and passengers required rescue after their vehicles became trapped on flooded roads. Flooding on railway tracks led Israel Railways to cancel all service north of Haifa Center Hashmona station.

Fire and rescue services increased the number of staff at call centers as a precaution against a repeat of a weekend incident in which a man and woman drowned to death in a flooded Tel Aviv elevator, despite multiple calls to emergency services for their rescue.

Police and emergency services warned the public to stay away from areas that could become flooded.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority closed some river hiking trails in the north due to the heavy rain and the expectation that some streams would overflow their banks.

Central and southern regions were battered by strong winds, with the wet weather forecast to spread to those areas during the afternoon and evening, drenching most areas of the country.

Forecasters expect the high winds to calm on Friday and the rain to taper off on Saturday.

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