Recent torrential downpours in northern Israel have broken a 51-year record of rainfall within a two-week period, the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) announced Thursday.
The IMS said that the Western and Upper Galilee have seen more than 400 millimeters (15.7 inches) of rain, causing major floods. Some meteorological stations have even recorded more than 450 millimeters (17.7 inches).
Such numbers have only been seen twice since measuring started 80 years ago — in December 1951 and in January 1969. According to Channel 12, in certain southern areas the rains also surpassed 76-year records.
Rainfall in the first nine days of January has surpassed the average for the entire month.
As of Thursday morning, the Sea of Galilee had risen by 23 centimeters (approximately nine inches) in a 24-hour period, and was at 211.1 meters below sea level, 2.3 meters from it’s fullest level.
In Emunim, in the central region, dozens of children were rescued from their school with dinghies and tractors after all access to the site was submerged under water.
The flooding also caused havoc on intercity roads, with several being blocked. Route 4 going south from the Ashdod Interchange was closed off and Route 90 was closed in both directions between Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi.
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.
Channel 12 reported that the cost of rebuilding infrastructure damaged in the floods in the northern city of Nahariya alone could amount to hundreds of millions of Shekels.
Around a thousand people attended the Thursday funeral of Moti Ben Shabbat, who died the day before as he tried to save people trapped in an overturned car in flood-ridden Nahariya. His death marked the the seventh in a season that has seen some areas of the country repeatedly deluged in downpours.
Police said Ben Shabbat was carried away by floodwaters Wednesday 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.
As heavy rains continued to drench the country Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the public to listen to safety instructions from authorities, just as they would if the country were under rocket attack.
Netanyahu on Sunday ordered a probe into how a couple died in a flooded elevator in Tel Aviv despite multiple calls to emergency services for their rescue. In Saturday’s fatal flooding, officials said the elevator became stuck, possibly due to a power outage. Residents told Hebrew media they heard banging from the elevator and called police but rescue services took 30 to 60 minutes to arrive.
The victims were named on Sunday as Dean Yaakov Shoshani and Stav Harari, both 25.
On Sunday, the body of a 71-year-old man was found after his car was caught in a flood in the northern Israeli town of Binyamina. On Monday, the body of Ali Agbaria, 47, who was missing since Sunday night, was found in an overturned car in a flooded stream.