Twenty one people, the majority of them children, have been confirmed dead following a flash flood in western Jordan on Thursday 25 October 2018, according the local civil defence authorities. The majority of the victims are understood to have been school children on a coach trip to a local hot spring close to the Dead Sea when the flooding struck, sweeping away all those unable to clamber to safety. Also caught in the flood were the adults accompanying the school trip, plus a number of families also visiting the site. Some of the victims were swept as far as 5 km from the site, with many suffering broken limbs as they were dragged over rocks, and it is unclear how many people are still missing. Local rescue teams have been joined by helicopters and military search-and-rescue teams from neighbouring Israel, following a request from the Jordanian Government. The flooding is also reported to have caused the collapse of a bridge in the same area, leading to a further 35 people being injured.
Rescue teams searching for victims of a flash flood in western Jordan on Friday 26 October 2018. Omar Akour/AP.
Like many desert areas, Jordan, while generally arid, is prone to occasional severe flooding. This stems from two causes; firstly the arid climate prevents the development of a thick soil layer which would be expected in less dry areas, so that in much of the area (non-porous) bedrock is either exposed or close to the surface, and secondly the hot climate leads to heavy evaporation from nearby seas and oceans, so that if the wind changes direction and brings water-laden air to the area, it brings a lot of precipitation with it. This combination of heavy rainfall and low ground absorbency leads to large amounts of water at the surface, typically moving downhill at some speed. Wadis, dry channels or ravines through which these sudden floods are channelled, can be particularly dangerous at these times, particularly as they often appear to resemble natural pathways or even camp sites to people unfamiliar with the climate.
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