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Search continues for missing 5-year-old as country braces for more unstable weather

Authorities warn of more floods forming this week, take measures to relocate families in danger's way

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

Search and rescue personnel look for missing people on Saturday after flashfloods hit several parts of the Kingdom during the weekend (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — A group of six men who were stranded in Maan Governorate’s Jafer area following Friday’s flashfloods were rescued and evacuated on Sunday morning, while search for a missing 5-year-old girl in Madaba Governorate’s Waleh Valley continued for the third consecutive day, according to the Civil Defence Department (CDD).

A total of 500 CDD officials were on Sunday searching Waleh Valley that starts in Mleih District in Madaba and ends in the Dead Sea area, looking for the missing girl, the CDD said, indicating that the vast valley stretches over 45 kilometres and is charachetrised by rough topography, lined with shrubs and trees, which complicates the search process.

An army helicopter was flying over the valley on Sunday to assist in the search efforts for the girl, while boats from the Royal Navy were also involved in the search in the Dead Sea, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

“The six men were found on Sunday morning, they are in good health. The search for the missing girl is still ongoing,” a CDD officer told The Jordan Times.

News reports indicated that the missing girl was with her family in Mleih in Madaba picking olives when the heavy rain started, and as the family attempted to leave the site in their car, which was swept away by strong flashfloods.

Unstable weather that started on Friday at noon, brought heavy torrential rain, causing flashfloods in different parts of the country. Twelve people were killed in the flashfloods and 29 were injured. The floods swamped several parts of the country following the heavy rain.

The CDD rescued more than 1,100 people caught in the floods.

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, linking Amman and the north to the southern region, to a complete halt.

Some 1,245 personnel from different state agencies, including the CDD, the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) 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.

Maan Social Development Directorate, in cooperation with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army, Maan Police Directorate, the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organisation and other international organisations, on Sunday distributed food items, in-kind assistance and heaters to 130 households in Athroh, Eil and Jafer neighbourhoods, who were affected by the weekend floods and weather conditions, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Meanwhile, the Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD) said on Sunday that the country is yet to experience another state of unstable weather condition on Tuesday, which will be followed by a depression the next day.

The JMD expected heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, warning people to stay away from valleys and waterways and to relocate from low-lying areas to avoid getting caught in flashfloods.

Head of the JMD’s weather forecasting directorate Raed Rafed said that unstable weather conditions are “serious and problematic”, and that people should not underestimate authorities’ warnings in extreme weather events.

The impact of Tuesday’s unstable weather will start prevailing gradually in the evening, when the weather will turn from fair to cloudy.

“Rain is expected in different parts of the country, and it is expected to be heavy at times. People are advised, therefore, to avoid areas prone to inundation,” Rafed highlighted.

Temperatures on Tuesday will be 21ºC during the day, dropping to 11ºC at night in Amman, according to the JMD.

A further drop in temperature is forecast for Wednesday, when the country will be affected in the evening by a depression centred over Syria, according to Rafed.

The weather will be cloudy and rain is expected in many parts of the country, according to the JMD, which said that temperatures will be 19 during the day, dropping to 9ºC at night in Amman.

Rafed urged people to always check for weather updates before making plans, especially when extreme weather events were expected.

Ajloun Governor Ali Majali said that 160 families living in areas close to valleys and forests were to be relocated to safer areas to protect them from flashfloods and rain forcast this week, according to Petra.

Families have already been evacuated from areas near valleys and waterways in Kofranjeh, in Ajloun, Ali Issawi, the district’s governor, was quoted by Petra as saying.

In the Central Jordan Valley region, residents were voicing their fear of their houses getting inundated by floods, noting that the recent rain have flooded their homes in Deir Alla and Joufeh.

Mayors of Deir Alla and Maadi, Central Jordan Valley regions surrounded by valleys that pose a danger their residents, said that they are working on water discharge and assisting residents whose homes have been flooded, but they are in need of retaining walls to protect the residential areas, which they do not possess capabilities for. 

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation also warned on Sunday people in Qatraneh, located 90 kilometres south of Amman in Karak Governorate, to stay away from the flashflood that was flowing from Bayer area in Maan Governorate.

The ministry said that the flood is heading towards the 1-million- cubic metre Qatraneh Dam, which was expected to reach full capacity by Sunday night.

Qatraneh Mayor Dhayfallah Bani Ateyyeh said no life or material losses were recorded from the flow to the dam on Sunday, noting that precautionary measures were taken by the municipality and several other concerned authorities upon being notified of the floods to the dam, including evacuating families living near waterways to safe areas, Petra reported.

Once the Qatraneh Dam overflows, the ministry said, the flood will flow in valleys to reach the Mujib Dam in Karak Governorate.

The ministry said it had already notified authorities that the dam will overflow, and urged people to stay away from the flowing flood as well as the one forcast to form after the dam overflows.

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