Flash floods kill nine Israeli teenagers during a pre-army hike
One hiker remained missing, and 15 were rescued after heavy rains. The victims were all 18 years old.
Flash floods killed nine Israeli teenagers who were hiking south of the Dead Sea on Thursday, Israel’s rescue service said.
The victims were all 18 years old. Israeli media said eight of the fatalities were female and one was male. Police said another hiker was missing.
Earlier, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 25 students in a pre-army course were “caught off guard” and some were “washed away” by heavy rains while they were hiking.
Rosenfeld said 15 hikers were rescued.
The deaths were viewed as a national tragedy in Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin said on Twitter: “The state of Israel is mourning the loss of young promising lives in the heavy disaster.” He said Israel “embraces” the grieving families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
The Dead Sea, the world’s lowest point at about 426.7 metres (1,400 feet) below sea level, is surrounded by desert and generally arid cliffs.
Police and army helicopters were deployed to search for the missing member of the group. But at nightfall, search operations were suspended until the morning because of harsh conditions, police said.
The downpour caused parts of Israel’s security barrier with the West Bank to collapse, Rosenfeld said.
Rain can come rushing down the steep descents, causing sudden and violent torrents in otherwise dry spots.
Heavy rainfall has fallen sporadically over the past two days.