Jordan flood death toll rises to 20, most of them school pupils


Thirty-seven middle school students, seven teachers and several others were visiting the area when the torrent of water, triggered by heavy rain, took them by surprise, according to The Associated Press (AP).

Sudden heavy rains sent flash floods surging toward them from higher ground, sweeping them away, some as far as the Dead Sea, officials said.

At least 10 school children have died and 16 are still missing, rescuers said. At least 17 are dead; more than 20 were injured.

Thirteen people escaped the flooding without injuries, with some holding on to rocks to survive.

Gen. Farid al-Sharaa, speaking after nightfall as large spotlights illuminated the flooded area.

"The IDF has begun assisting in the rescue of the Jordanian children's bus that was swept away adjacent to the Dead Sea on the Jordanian side as a result of flooding in the southern area earlier today", the IDF stated.

King Abdullah, who had been active in the emergency operations room and following up on rescue efforts late on Thursday and Friday, cancelling a trip to Bahrain to address an annual security summit, expressed his anger at the negligence that led to the deaths of schoolgirls, teachers and residents in the area.

A complex rescue operation involving helicopters, divers, sniffer dogs and hundreds of searchers had continued into the night Thursday and then resumed after daybreak on Friday.

The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, is surrounded by steep valleys and gullies that frequently see flash floods and landslides.

Civil defence spokesman Captain Iyad al Omar told Reuters the number of casualties was expected to rise.

Jordan's state news agency, Petra, confirmed the death toll in a tweet, saying dozens more had been rescued.

Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to help, an Israeli military statement said.

Last week, flash flooding also killed five people across Tunisia, including a six-year-old child who drowned in Sidi Bouzid.