AMMAN: At least 18 people, mainly children and teachers on a school outing, were killed on Thursday in a flash flood near the Dead Sea in Jordan.
Up to 34 people were rescued in a dramatic operation involving helicopters, marine divers, swimmers and boats, after a bus with 37 schoolchildren and seven teachers on a trip to a resort area of hot springs were swept into a valley by raging flood waters.
Late on Thursday, 10 more children and a teacher were found and awaiting rescue.
Many of those killed were children under 14. Families picnicking in the popular destination were also among the dead and injured.
Hundreds of families and relatives converged on Southern Shounah hospital, a few kilometers from the resort area. Relatives sobbed and searched for details about the missing children.
A doctor in the hospital emergency room said the “bodies kept on coming.” “Ambulances were coming and leaving, dropping dead people and dropping injured people of different ages. By 7 p.m., we had 10 bodies and 11 injured people,” he said.
“The students were on a school trip and it appears that a mudslide along the road swept their bus away,” the official added.
Israel’s military said it was helping with the operation, sending helicopters as well as search and rescue soldiers.
“Currently assisting Jordan in rescuing a bus full of children swept away in a flood on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea,” it wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz rushed to the scene, overseeing part of the rescue operation and visiting the wounded at an area hospital.
As the death toll continued to rise Thursday evening, Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced that he canceled a visit to Bahrain, which had been scheduled for Friday.The Jordanian government will open an investigation and hold those responsible for the incident accountable, Minister of State for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat said. “It is clear that there is a violation; the school that organized the trip did not abide by public safety regulations which stipulate that students must not swim and must be kept away from waterways,” she said.
The school, Victoria College in Amman, had approval for a trip to Al-Azraq, an eco-tourism destination in Jordan’s eastern desert, not to the Dead Sea, Ghunaimat said.
The Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth, is surrounded by steep valley slopes that frequently witness flash floods and landslides.“Everyone who is proved to have committed a violation and did not do their part will be held to account.”
An angry crowd of students’ families and other relatives surrounded the school premises in Talaa Al Ali in Amman, demanding that the school be held accountable for the tragedy.