Jordan: Flash flood sweeps away school bus, killing at least 18

Image      The children were attending picnics in the Dead Sea area. File pic

Flash floods in Jordan swept away a school bus Thursday, killing at least 18 people, mostly pupils, emergency services said.

Rescue and recovery attempts were continuing as of Friday afternoon, as civil defence staff and the royal navy deployed divers and rescue dogs to scour the mud, debris and shorelines in the southern Dead Sea area.

Heavy rains started pouring at around 3:00pm, causing water to come down from the Madaba mountains into the valley where the field trip was taking place.

"May we know no more devastating tragedies as these".

Education Minister Azmi Mahaftha said the private school - Amman-based Victoria College - was responsible, not his ministry, for "providing wrong information on their field trip application", according to local media reports.

His Majesty also expressed thanks to the civilians who assisted in rescue efforts and voiced pride in their actions, noting that during hard times, Jordanians always rise to the occasion and make everyone proud.

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Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to help, an Israeli military statement said. The specialists later returned to Israel, though they remained on alert.

Doctor Mahmoud Zureigat, general manager of al-Basheer public hospital in Amman where the victims were transported, said the dead arrived with severe injuries to their bodies.

A civil defence official was also quoted on state television saying that the number of casualties was expected to rise as the day progressed. He was to have been the keynote speaker at a security conference.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, said that the Dead Sea flood incident "was a great tragedy that hurt all of us as Jordanians, God bless the dead and give us patience".

A bridge on one of the cliffs of the Dead Sea collapsed under the force of the rains, the first such after the end of summer.

"It swept away the students for 4 to 5 kilometres, " some as far as the Dead Sea, he said.

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