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Death toll rises to 21 in Dead Sea flash floods

By Hana Namrouqa - Oct 26,2018 - Last updated at Oct 27,2018

AMMAN – Death toll from the flash floods that swept students on a school trip and other families in the hot springs area near the Dead Sea increased to 21 by Friday afternoon as a large scale search and rescue operation continued for the second day, according to authorities.

The number of those rescued increased to 35, according to the Civil Defence Department (CDD), while the number of missing people remains unknown due to the presence of not only students on a school trip but also an unidentified number of families on the popular tourist site that lies at the bottom of the valleys overlooking the Dead Sea.

“Eighteen bodies have been identified by their families, 14 of whom were from participants of the school trip, mostly students. Two dead bodies remain to be identified,” the CDD officer told The Jordan Times.

Meanwhile, a bridge that leads to the site where the search and rescue operation is underway collapsed this morning.

“The bridge that is located down the road of the hotels area and leads to the site of the tragedy collapsed, however, it did not affect the search and rescue efforts because our machineries were already stationed at the site since Thursday afternoon and the collapsed bridge is far away from the site where we are operating,” the CDD officer told The Jordan Times this morning.

Meanwhile, the Royal Court on Friday morning lowered the Jordanian flag at its entrance in a three-day mourning of the victims of the Dead Sea tragedy.

 A total of 46 students and teachers from a private school in Amman were swept away with the water, in addition to families visiting the site.

A total of 2,000 personnel from military and civil state agencies participated in the large scale rescue operation, in addition to 100 rescue machineries, four helicopters and several boats, which were roaming the lake of the Dead Sea in search for survivors or victims, according to the CDD.

“This is a major rescue operation entailing scores of people from different state agencies as well as several rescue helicopters and boats, marine divers and swimmers are at the site now to rescue trapped people and search for missing ones,” an officer at the CDD’s press department told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Authorities started searching for survivors around 2:00pm when heavy rain was still pouring, according to a CDD officer, who underscored that the search path starts from the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea and stretches down over five to six kilometers of very tough topography and water valleys.

A doctor operating at the Southern Shouneh Public Hospital, where all the dead and the injured were transferred to before being re-transferred to Al Bashir Public Hospital in Amman, said that the “bodies kept on coming.”

“Ambulances were coming and leaving, dropping dead people and dropping injured people from different ages. By 7:00pm we had ten dead bodies and 11 mildly injured people,” the doctor at the hospital’s emergency room told The Jordan Times obver the phone.

Prime Minister Omar Razza and senior government and army officials oversaw the rescue operation and instructed state agencies on Thursday to provide all needed assistance to ensure the safety of the students and those trapped.

“The number of those killed in the flash flood is expected to increase because many were reported to have been swept away by the raging water,” the officer said.

The Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD) announced on Monday that a depression and a relatively cold air mass were expected to affect the country as of Thursday.

Head of the Weather Forecast Department at the JMD Raed Rafed said that “almost all of the country witnessed heavy rain and flash floods were formed in many parts, including Amman.”

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