JERUSALEM, Oct. 19 (JTA) – Severe storms accompanied by
flash flooding raged across southern Israel, killing at least five people,
with several others missing and presumed dead. The storms, considered the worst to hit some areas in 25 years, began last Friday and continued through Saturday. They struck during the Sukkot holiday, when many Israelis were camping and hiking in nature reserves. Thousands cut short their vacations and returned home. Dozens of hikers had to be rescued. The storms covered Beersheba with a foot-thick carpet of hail – a phenomenon not recalled by even the city’s oldest residents. Three of the dead were traveling by car Saturday near Kibbutz Ein Gedi when a great wave of water rushed down the mountainside and swept their vehicle off the road. Three other passengers in the car managed to climb to safety and were later rescued. In Eilat, the storm brought 1.2 inches of rain – nearly the entire average rainfall the city gets each winter. The storm left the West Bank town of Jericho without electricity. Nearby fields were flooded and some hothouses swept away. Weather forecasters predicted more rain for this week.