Jordan flood death toll rises to 21, majority school pupils

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Last week, flash flooding also killed five people across Tunisia, including a six-year-old child who drowned in Sidi Bouzid.

At least 14 school children and teachers have died in a flash flood near Jordan's Dead Sea, which happened while they were on an outing. Relatives sobbed and searched for missing children, a witness said.

A dramatic rescue operation involving helicopters and divers continued into the night.

The region was bracing on Thursday for the first winter storms after the summer, with heavy rainfall and high winds expected.

The Air Force said after midnight that the rescue mission had returned to Israel.

Crews were able to rescue at least 34 people from the flash floods, local reports said.

The victims were mostly schoolchildren from the capital, Amman, who were visiting the area on a field trip, Petra news agency reported on Friday.

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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. The specialists later returned to Israel, though they remained on alert.

In April, nine Israeli teenagers hiking south of the Dead Sea were killed in a similar flood.

An official with Jordan's civil defence department told the Jordan Times newspaper the death toll was expected to increase.

Royal Hashemite Court Chief Yousef Issawi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Rajai Muasher, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Freihat, Adviser to His Majesty and Director of the Office of His Majesty Manar Dabbas, Adviser to His Majesty for Tribal Affairs Sharif Fawwaz Zaben Abdullah, and Adviser to His Majesty for Economic Affairs Mohamad Al Ississ attended the meeting. He was to have been the keynote speaker at a security conference.

The UN secretary-general and several regional leaders sent condolences.

According to the Education Ministry, Victoria College School committed three violations by sending the busload of schoolgirls to the southern Dead Sea.

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