At least 18 schoolchildren and teachers have been killed and others injured after flash floods swept away their bus near the Dead Sea in Jordan.
The bus had been carrying 37 pupils and seven members of staff to the Zara Maeen hot springs area when it was washed away, officials said. A huge rescue operation has been launched and Israel said it had sent helicopters at Jordan’s request.
Rescue teams have so far found at least 22 survivors, Reuters reported. Some of them are said to be in a serious condition. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and popular with visitors. But its arid conditions and its deep canyons make it susceptible to flash floods.
The Israeli military said that following a request from the Jordanian government, it had sent a number of helicopters with soldiers from an elite search-and-rescue unit. Troops were helping to locate those missing despite adverse weather conditions, a statement said.
Details of the victims have not been released although an education ministry official said the students were from a private school, the Jordan Times reported. The official, who was not named, expressed surprise that a school trip had been organised despite weather warnings.
Heavy rain has been sweeping the region for several days. Some streets in the Jordanian capital, Amman, have been inundated, leading to traffic jams, while large hailstorms have been reported elsewhere.
Yesterday’s incident is the second tragedy resulting from flash flooding near the Dead Sea this year. In April, nine teenage hikers were swept away and killed in Nahal Tzafit, southern Israel. Another 15 were rescued.