Rains continue to deluge Israel, causing flooding in coastal, desert areas
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Rains continue to deluge Israel, causing flooding in coastal, desert areas

Sea of Galilee rises by 23 cm; schools stay closed in some northern communities; severe flooding in Ashkelon and Ashdod

  • A road is blocked by flooding, January 9, 2020 (Israel Police)
    A road is blocked by flooding, January 9, 2020 (Israel Police)
  • Flooded fields following heavy rain in Afula, Northern Israel, January 9, 2020 (Anat Hermony/Flash90)
    Flooded fields following heavy rain in Afula, Northern Israel, January 9, 2020 (Anat Hermony/Flash90)
  • People take cover from the rain during a rainy and windy weather in Beit Hakerem neighborhood in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People take cover from the rain during a rainy and windy weather in Beit Hakerem neighborhood in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A strong stream of water at the Lakhish River following heavy rain in Ashdod, southern Israel, January 9, 2020 (Flash90)
    A strong stream of water at the Lakhish River following heavy rain in Ashdod, southern Israel, January 9, 2020 (Flash90)
  • A woman is rescued by police from flooding in Ashdod, January 9, 2020 (Israel Police)
    A woman is rescued by police from flooding in Ashdod, January 9, 2020 (Israel Police)

Heavy rains continued Thursday, bringing warnings of dangerous flooding and chaos to the roads, a day after a man was killed by floodwaters in the north as he tried to rescue a mother and child trapped in their car.

The storm on Thursday is expected to focus on the coast and the Negev desert, with particular concerns about flooding in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

The wet weather system is also expected to slam Tel Aviv, where two people died on Saturday when they were trapped in a flooded elevator.

Schools and kindergartens remained closed Thursday in some northern communities. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority closed some river hiking trails due to the heavy rain and the expectation that some streams would overflow their banks.

Men look at the Lakhish River following heavy rain in Ashdod, southern Israel, January 9, 2020 (Flash 90)

Over the past 24 hours, the Sea of Galilee has risen by 23 centimeters (approximately nine inches).

Rescue services operated in Tel Aviv and the surrounding areas overnight, providing assistance to those caught in the flooding. Police said in a statement they worked alongside soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces and volunteers to rescue residents. There were no casualties reported.

Central and southern regions are also expected to be battered by strong winds, which forecasters expect will calm on Friday, with the rain tapering off on Saturday.

A man swept away by flooding was found dead Wednesday in the northern city of Nahariya.

Quoting eyewitnesses, police said Moti Ben Shabbat, 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 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.

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

The flooding also left some 100 students at an elementary school in the city trapped, 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.”

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)

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 tank covered in snow in the northern Golan Heights, on January 8, 2020 (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

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 rains also poured on the northern port city of Haifa, with some 50 millimeters (two inches) falling during the Wednesday morning hours, causing flooding that blocked many streets in the city and surrounding areas. Some drivers and passengers required rescue after their vehicles became stuck 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.

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