PM says he's 'appalled,' calls for probe

Two die in flooded elevator as downpours hit central Israel, streets inundated

Videos on social media show submerged cars in Tel Aviv and surrounding suburbs; man in north electrocuted to death by heater; 2 treated for hypothermia in other cases

Divers seen inside a Tel Aviv building where a man and woman died Saturday due to the flooding of a basement level (Channel 13 screenshot)
Divers seen inside a Tel Aviv building where a man and woman died Saturday due to the flooding of a basement level (Channel 13 screenshot)

A man and a woman were killed in the basement level of a residential building in the south of Tel Aviv on Saturday, after becoming trapped in a flooded elevator during heavy storms. The two apparently drowned.

The 35-year-old man was rushed to hospital in critical condition after being extracted from the elevator by firefighters. Paramedics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service attempted to resuscitate him as he was taken to Sheba Medical Center in nearby Tel Hashomer. However, he later died.

The 30-year-old woman was brought out some time after the man in critical condition and medics made efforts to save her but were unsuccessful.

Officials said the elevator became stuck, possibly due to a power outage, and flooded with water.

Residents told Hebrew media they heard banging from the elevator and called police but that rescue services took between 30-60 minutes to arrive.

Alfred Jadid, the owner of the building, also accused the police and fire services of taking too long to respond.

“When I arrived the water had already reached the top,” he was quoted saying by the Ynet news site. “We tried to open the doors but were unable to.”

“They weren’t prepared for this,” he said of the rescue workers.

Cars submerged on a Jaffa street after central Israel is battered by downpour, January 4, 2020 (Screen grab via Ruthi Lerer via Channel 13)

He also said residents of the building called police “maybe 100 times,” something denied by a police source, who told the news site only one call to the emergency hotline was recorded.

A diver from the fire services said the rescue mission was a particularly complicated one.

“The water was murky and dirty. We didn’t see anything,” he told Channel 12 news.

In a statement Saturday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “appalled by the tragic death of two Tel Aviv residents killed in the elevator disaster.

“I have spoken with the public security minister, the transportation minister the acting police chief and head of fire and rescue services to look into how this happened and how such disasters can be prevented in the future.”

In northern Israel, a man in his 70s died in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Bialik after he was electrocuted by a heater in his home.

Parts of central Israel saw record rainfall, with massive downpours flooding streets and swelling rivers. According to Ynet, 71 millimeters (almost 3 inches) of rain fell in Tel Aviv over the course of a two-hour period.

The heavy rain fall caused extensive flooding.

Videos posted to social media saw streets in Tel Aviv and Jaffa flooded, with water reaching near the roofs of cars.

A 55-year-old woman was discovered in a pool of water on the city’s Hakhme Yisrael Boulevard. She was treated by paramedics and taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia but in stable condition.

In a number of places around the country, drivers needed to be rescued from cars trying to ford flooded streets as drainage systems struggled to keep up with the downpour.

Police warned of massive delays in the center of the country as traffic remained snarled as a result of road closures.

In the north, Mount Hermon was closed to skiers and visitors due to adverse weather conditions which authorities said made the site dangerous for the public.

Snow fell in areas above an altitude of 900 meters (2,952 feet) in the Galilee and Golan regions of the north of the country for the first time this winter, Channel 13 news reported.

Parts of northern Israel saw record rainfall last week, with massive downpours swelling rivers, and killing two people.

Days of torrential rainfall brought the water level in the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s major freshwater lake, up by some 200 mm (7.9 inches).

View of the Jordan River after heavy rains in northern Israel, on December 27, 2019. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Safed’s 126 mm (5 inches) of precipitation was the most in one day since record keeping began in 1939. The previous record was 121 mm in January 1969, according to Hebrew media reports. The communities of Neve Ya’ar and Hayogev also experienced record downpours.

The rain turned the Galilee’s normally docile streams into raging rapids, claiming the life of 27-year-old shepherd Majd Qassem Su’ad, who was overcome by a flash flood, and 15-year-old Omri Abu-janb who was swept away by raging floodwaters near the town of Jatt.

Israel had recorded below average precipitation this year before last week’s storm, which erased the deficit in the north and lessened it in other areas.

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