Eight youths from a premilitary academy were in critical condition and two were missing after they were swept away in torrential floods Thursday during a hike in Nahal Tzafit, a riverbed in the southern Dead Sea area.
Some 13 members of the group were found and retrieved by rescuers without harm. Two were lightly hurt.
Police units, the Air Force’s elite 669 rescue team and the local Arava emergency search and rescue unit were mounting a massive search and rescue operation to find the missing youths, who all attend a premilitary, post-high school seminary from the country’s north.
Soroka Hospital in Beersheba issued a statement that some youths were en route by helicopter to the hospital.
“We are asking people not to travel to [flooded areas],” police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Merav Lapidot said. “All the rescue teams of the Southern District of the police are there, and the top commanders of the district are on their way there, in addition to other police forces,” Lapidot told Hadashot television news.
The rains causing the flash floods throughout the Negev and West Bank continued to batter parts of the country for a second day Thursday, after tapering off in the morning from Wednesday’s massive storm.
Powerful rains fell in Eilat in the afternoon, causing flooding and shuttering the southernmost city’s airport. Route 90, the main north-south highway through the desert to the Red Sea port, was closed from the city’s entrance to the Arava Junction, close to the site where the class trip was swept away.
An IsraAir flight on its way to Eilat was diverted Thursday afternoon to the Uvda air base, with officials explaining that the runway in Eilat’s airport was too flooded to allow planes to land.