Rescuers combed the shores of Jordan’s Dead Sea resort area early yesterday to find survivors after rain storms unleashed flash floods that killed at least 20 people, most of them schoolchildren on a school outing.
Thirty-seven people were rescued in a major operation involving helicopters, army personnel and divers searching for survivors of the floods that swept through valleys to the shores of the area, Jordanian civil defence sources said.
Police chief Brigadier General Farid al-Sharaa told state television that the torrential rains swept away a bus carrying 44 children and teachers who were on a school trip picnicking in the popular destination.
The national flag was lowered to half mast in mourning as public opinion and politicians began raising questions in local media outlets about the preparedness of national emergencies services to cope with such a disaster.
Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said it appeared the school had broken regulations by going ahead with the trip after warnings were issued about the Dead Sea area because of bad weather.
An unknown number of people were still missing, hospital sources said.
A bridge on one of the cliffs of the Dead Sea had collapsed under the force of the rains, the first such after the end of the summer season.
Families of those missing were searching the rugged area after search teams suspended operations overnight for a few hours, a witness said.
Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to assist, an Israeli military statement said, adding that the team was dispatched at Amman’s request and was operating on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.
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