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Extreme weather

Tourists flee as flash floods roar through ancient city of Petra, and four die elsewhere in Jordan

  • Video shows torrent rushing through the narrow canyon leading to the main tourist site in Petra, the Treasury building
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 4:49am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 6:31am

Flash floods caused by heavy rain across Jordan killed four people on Friday and forced hundreds of tourists to seek higher ground in the kingdom’s ancient city of Petra, government officials said.

About two dozen people were hurt and dozens more evacuated from their homes in several locations in the kingdom, as floodwaters rose rapidly.

Amateur video posted online showed a powerful torrent rushing through the narrow canyon through which visitors reach the Treasury, the main attraction of Petra, an ancient trading hub carved from rose-coloured rock.

The video showed several hundred visitors crowded on a patch of higher ground near the Treasury as local guides helped one woman through surging water toward safety.

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“We made it,” she shouted as she rejoined her group.

Such canyons, known as wadis, can be dangerous in rains, as the lack of soil or plantlife to arrest the water causes them to flood quickly.

Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat said two dozen people were injured and dozens more evacuated as homes were flooded in several locations. Elsewhere, rising water levels forced the closure of a desert highway.

Friday’s floods came just two weeks after 21 people, many of them middle school students, were killed in a flash flood near the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea. The education and tourism ministers resigned after the incident.

The state news agency Petra quoted Ghuneimat as saying that four people were killed Friday in two incidents.

In a village in the Madaba region, south of the capital of Amman, the floods swept away a vehicle carrying members of one family, Civil Defence officials said.

An 11-year-old girl was killed, another girl was seriously injured and divers were searching for three other family members.

In another incident in the Dabaa area, also south of Amman, two women and a girl were killed in the floods, which also forced the closure of a desert highway. A large number of cars were stuck, Ghuneimat said.

The spokeswoman said more than 3,600 tourists visited Petra on Friday, and that efforts were continuing to evacuate them.

Petra, an ancient city believed to date back to 9,000 BC, was designated a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 1985.