Israel deployed helicopters full of IDF and civil rescue teams to the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, when a bus carrying 37 schoolchildren and seven teachers was swept away by flash floods. The request came directly from the Jordanian government.

The soldiers, from the Air Force’s 669 search and rescue unit, continued the search until the harsh weather conditions made it impossible to do so and the Jordanian authorities called off the search.

Despite the IDF’s efforts, at least 18 people were killed in the flash flood, most of them in the bus that was swept away. There were reports that 34 people have been rescued from the area – although some of them are said to be in a serious condition.

The dead and injured also included members of families picnicking at the Zaara Maeen hot springs – a popular tourist spot.

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The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth – 432 meters below sea-level – and is extremely popular with visitors. However, its arid conditions and deep canyons make it susceptible to flash floods.

“There were people who ended up in the sea water and there were people who managed to reach rocks and save themselves. Thank God we managed to save 13 people without any injuries,” he said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah cancelled a visit to Bahrain scheduled for Friday because of the tragedy, local media reported.

Thursday’s incident is the second tragedy resulting from flash flooding near the Dead Sea this year. Both involved school students and where weather warnings seemed to have been ignored.

In April, 10 Israeli teenage hikers were swept away and killed in Nahal Tzafit, southern Israel. Another 15 were rescued.

Source: Israel in the News