10 teens swept away to their deaths in Israeli desert

By Ruth Eglash | Washington Post

JERUSALEM – A flash flood struck a group of 25 teenagers hiking in Israel’s southern desert Thursday, sweeping 10 of them to their deaths as an unseasonal storm hit the region, Israel’s police said in a statement.

Nine of the teenagers’ bodies were recovered, officials said, after torrential rains swept over an area that is usually arid and dry. Volunteers, together with police and military search-and-rescue teams, were still searching for the tenth youth as nightfall set in.

Israeli media reported that among those killed were eight females and one male. They were members of a post-high school, pre-military educational academy, part of a group of 25 teens that had set out for a hike Thursday afternoon in an area just south of the Dead Sea. The teen still missing is female.

Television stations canceled scheduled broadcasts to air dramatic images from the rescue operation. The main question being asked was why the group had decided to continue with the hike in an area known for flash floods.

Warnings were issued Wednesday and Thursday by Israel’s Meteorological Service about the possibility of flash floods in the area, where even small quantities of rainfall can cause powerful flooding, Haaretz reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “disaster” and said he was being updated regularly by those conducting the search.

The heavy rains began Wednesday in the same area. Not far from where the youths were swept away Thursday, a 17-year-old Bedouin Israeli was swept away in a similar flood.

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