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12 killed as Kingdom navigates anew through flashfloods

Search and rescue operations still ongoing as some people remain missing

By Hana Namrouqa - Nov 11,2018 - Last updated at Nov 11,2018

Members of search and rescue operations look for missing people in Madaba on Saturday, in the aftermath of flashfloods that hit the Kingdom during the weekend (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — Twelve people were killed on Friday and Saturday and 29 were injured in flashfloods that swamped several parts of the country following heavy rain, while the search continued on Saturday for seven more missing people, among them a girl reported missing in Heidan Valley in Madaba Governorate.

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Jumana Ghunaimat said on Saturday evening that the search was also ongoing for six people in Jafer area, in Southern Badia.

She added that a military aircraft was dispatched to the location where they were reported missing, and the rescue operation was ongoing.

A state of unstable weather conditions that started on Friday at noon, brought heavy torrential rain, which caused flashfloods in different parts of the country. 

At least three people lost their lives on Friday in floods in Dabaa, a residential area in Jizah District in south Amman, and nine people, including a diver with the Civil Defence Department (CDD), were killed in flashfloods in Heidan Valley in Madaba, 35 kilometres southwest Amman.

“We have recovered the bodies of 12 people between Friday and today [Saturday], and rescued many others. A search and rescue operation is still ongoing in Heidan area to find a missing girl,” an officer at the CDD’s press office told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

The CDD rescued more than 1,100 people who were caught in floods, the officer said, highlighting that hundreds of CDD officers were still operating in different parts of the country by Saturday noon to deal with the aftermath of the flashfloods.

This was the second time in three weeks that the Kingdom witnessed killer flashfloods. On October 25, flashfloods following 15 minutes of quick rain killed 21 people in the Dead Sea area, 16 of whom were students hiking in Zarqa-Maeen Valley while on a school trip to the site.

The weekend’s floods inundated several touristic sites, swamped houses and swept away moving cars. The strong flashfloods also brought traffic on the busy Desert Highway, which links Amman and the north to the central region, to a complete stop.

“Several parts of the highway were witnessing raging floods from nearby mountains. The floods receded by Friday evening, but left mud and huge rocks on the highway, which remained closed for at least four hours,” according to the officer.

The Public Security Department (PSD) released a statement Saturday evening saying that the Dead Sea Bridge Road, the Jafer Bridge Road and the Maleih Road towards Al Waleh Bridge have been closed as a precautionary measure. 

All other streets in the Kingdom were open, according to the statement, quoted by the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

Youth clubs, mosques and schools were opened all day on Friday to receive people trapped in the extreme weather, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, which reported that dozens of Syrian families were also rescued and relocated to schools temporarily.

Petra reported that the PSD evacuated three families in Maan whose houses were flooded, and transferred them to safe locations, while another family in Southern Shouneh was evacuated as their building showed cracks due to the floods. 

Some 1,245 personnel from different state agencies, including the CDD, the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army and the Public Security Department, took part in the search and rescue operations across the country. The army dispatched reconnaissance aircraft, boats, military trucks, vehicles and machinery to assist in the rescue and search operations, Petra reported.

Four CDD personnel and four PSD officers who were part of the rescue operations are among the injured, Petra reported.

A PSD statement, quoted by Petra, noted that 200 Jordanian families and 180 Syrian families were evacuated due to flood damage, while 3,804 tourists were evacuated from tourist sites, including 3,762 from Petra (See story on page 3).

The statement said that the emergency hotline service received 21,176 calls during the floods concerning 5,236 cases.

The government on Friday announced that classes and activities in schools and universities were suspended on Saturday, when more rain was expected, while the Southern Badia Education Directorate on Saturday announced suspending schools on Sunday as well in Jafer and other areas.

The PSD warned all residents in the Kingdom to take caution while driving, and to avoid the Kingdom’s lowlands and waterways.

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