A flash flood has killed at least 21 people in Jordan, including children, prompting the Israeli Air Force to respond with helicopters and elite rescue teams, officials said Friday.
In total, 35 people were rescued, according to the Civil Defense Department and 14 bodies have been identified by family members so far.
Many victims were children riding a school bus that got swept away by the floodwaters. The IAF responded on the request of the Jordanian government, rescuing many of the victims, including children, the IAF said in a statement. Three helicopters combed the area looking for the missing children.
“We do whatever we can do to help wherever lives can be saved,” a spokesman identified as Lt. Col. A said. “We assisted the aerial searches until the Jordanians thanked us and told us that they would be fine on their own from then on.”
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The school did not have a permit to visit the Dead Sea area and it’s being investigated.
Families who were picnicking near the resort town were also swept away.
“This is a major rescue operation entailing scores of people from different state agencies as well as several rescue helicopters and boats, marine divers and swimmers are at the site now to rescue trapped people and search for missing ones,” a CDD spokesman said.
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A bridge near the Dead Sea collapsed during the rescue operations.
“It did not affect the search and rescue efforts because our machineries were already stationed at the site since Thursday afternoon and the collapsed bridge is far away from the site where we are operating,” a CDD officer told the Jordan Times.
The joint operation between Israel and Jordan rescuers comes in the same week Abdullah elected not to renew two annexes of the 1994 peace agreement.
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“There is a great significance in IAF participation in events of this sort,” Lt. Col A said. “In this case, these were our neighbors. Assisting another country feels very good. Symbolically, our assistance occurred on the very week the peace treaty was signed with Jordan 24 years ago”.