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Authorities report mix-up in delivery of bodies after Dead Sea incident

Research operations end after DNA tests solve mystery

By Hana Namrouqa - Oct 27,2018 - Last updated at Oct 28,2018

Civil defence members search for survivors after rain storms unleashed flashfloods, near the Dead Sea, Jordan, on Friday (AFP photo)

AMMAN — A family has identified and buried the wrong body of their daughter, who was killed among 21 others when school children were swept away in a flashflood near the Dead Sea Thursday.

In a statement late Saturday evening, the National Institute of Forensic Medicine (NIFM) said the DNA test results explained the mystery of an unidentified boy, the only one remaining anonymous after the incident. 

In a statement, NIFM explained that a family of another female student killed in the incident had mistakenly identified the body of another girl as their daughter and have buried her. 

NIFM did the DNA test after the family of the last person to be reported missing in Thursday’s flashflood, said that the body of the girl in the morgue did not belong to their daughter.

In videos circulated on social media, the father of the missing girl cited differences between his girl and that of the girl at the morgue. In one of the videos, he said that his daughter has shorter hair, more aligned teeth and did not wear jewelry, indicating that the girl retrieved on Friday seemed older than his daughter.

The confusion kept search ongoing Saturday for the teenage girl in the Zarqa-Maeen Valley near the Dead Sea but it came to an end late Satuday after the DNA announcement, according to authorities.

The Civil Defence Department (CDD) expanded the scope of its search and rescue operation on its third day, by an additional 15km compared to Thursday and Friday, according to the CDD’s press office.

Meanwhile, Southern Shouneh Public Prosecutor Ahmad Rahamneh on Saturday issued on Saturday a gag order restricting the publication of any news, information or comments related to the investigation into the Dead Sea incident.

On Thursday noon, heavy quick rain formed flashfloods in different parts of the country, which resulted in landslides and road closures. The wet season’s first heavy rain formed a strong flash flood which took Victoria College School’s students and teachers by surprise while returning back from a hike in the Zarqa-Maeen Valley, whose water channels into the Dead Sea.

A teacher who survived the flashflood along with 13 of her students recounted the events of that fateful day in a televised interview on Friday. She said that four hours on the start of the hike, rain started falling and the valley’s water level started rising, prompting her to take her students to higher ground to escape the increasing water level.

The teacher, who stayed with her group of students on the top of a rough and remote mountain until CDD officially rescued them later that night, said that she was not aware of the nature or destination of the school trip.

Official correspondence between the Ministry of Education and the private school that organised the trip shows that the ministry approved the trip’s destination as Azraq and clearly warned against allowing students to swim or be in close contact with waterways.

Minister of State for Legal Affairs Mubarak Abu Yamin, who is a member of an investigation committee probing the incident, said that the school contracted a private adventure tourism company to organise the trip, indicating that one of the company’s tour guides who accompanied the students on the trip, was among those killed in the flashflood.

Abu Yamin said on Jordan TV’s 60 Minutes on Friday night that the area that witnessed the flashflood is not cleared as a picnicking destination, noting that adventure tourism, a trending type of tourism in Jordan, is not designed for children.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, who shared related documents on Twitter on Thursday evening showing the official communications between the ministry and the school, ordered the formation of the committee to investigate the chain of events, shortcomings and violations which led to the tragedy.

The Ministry of Education on Saturday issued a decision suspending classes in Victoria College School, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

Resuming classes or not depends on the results of the committee investigating the incident, according to Petra.

A total of 44 students and three teachers were on the school trip.

The Lower House Education Committee is scheduled to meet today with Minister of Education and Higher Education Azmi Mahafzah, whose ministry was publicly criticised for not suspending all school trips on Thursday on the account of the extreme weather condition.

The House panel has also summoned for a hearing, alongside the minister of education and higher education, the ministers of interior, public works and housing, transport and municipal affairs, water and irrigation, tourism and political development.

 The meeting will also be attended by a large number of MPs and a number of Lower House committee heads, to stand at the facts of the Dead Sea incident and uncover the reasons and sources of negligence that claimed the lives of 21 people and resulted in 43 injuries.

Head of the Lower House Education Committee Ibrahim Al Badour said that the Dead Sea incident caused a pain that is felt nationwide and every possible effort will be exerted to reveal the details about the incident in order to hold the defaulters accountable, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

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