Nine Israeli youths killed after caught in flash flood

Tel Aviv: Nine Israeli youths were announced dead on Thursday evening after they were swept away in a flash flood in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, the police said.

Another boy was announced missing and large forces of police, firefighters and army troops were still searching for him on Thursday evening, Xinhua reported.

The teens were among a group of about 23 boys and girls from a pre-army preparatory course, who went hiking in the Tzafit wadi when a flooding began.

About 15 youths were rescued, without suffering major injuries, a spokesperson with the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba said.

The rescue operation includes three Yasur military helicopters, two Blackhawk helicopters, an Apache, and troops with the army’s special Unit 669 rescue force.

Police chief Roni Alsheich arrived at the scene to oversee the rescue efforts, who were expected to continue overnight in order to find the missing teen.

Earlier in the evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was closely monitoring the rescue efforts.

“I commend the security and rescue forces that are now working to save lives and locate the missing in the terrible disaster that took place today in Tzafit,” he said in a statement released on his behalf. “We are all praying for better news.”

The flooding began amidst unusually heavy spring rains across Israel.

The Hebrew-language Ha’aretz newspaper reported that the group went hiking in the wadi despite a statement issued by Nature and Parks Authority, warning floods are expected in the region.

Following the incident, the Tamar Regional Council, where the wadi is located, issued a request not to reach the Dead Sea and Arava area due to the harsh weather conditions and floods in the area.

Heavy bursts of rain started on Wednesday. The rains claimed the lives of a 17-year-old Bedouin teen and a female shepherd, who were swept away by a flash flood in the Negev on Wednesday.

The rains caused also heavy traffic jams in central Israel and floods in major cities, including Tel Aviv.