Two dead as floods hit Israel, West Bank

Israelis watch flooded water running through a valley blocking the main road along the Dead Sea in the Judean desert, near the desert fortress of Masada north of Ein Bokek, following heavy rainfall in the mountains on April 25, 2018

Jerusalem (AFP) – Two teenagers died in a series of floods that hit Israel and the Palestinian territories on Wednesday, police said, the first of three forecast days of heavy rain.

In the southern Israeli Negev desert, a 17-year-old Bedouin boy was swept away in a river before being found dead, police said.

And east of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl was found dead after being taken by a current.

The rainfall affected most of Israel, with many locations receiving dozens of millimetres of downfall in a short period of time and hail hitting some central and coastal cities. 

Streets flooded in central Israel, forcing motorists to abandon their vehicles, and roads closed in the south where desert rivers overflowed.

The current system exceptional for this time of year was not the amount of rain but rather the fact that the downpour had affected so much of Israel and was going to continue for another two days. 

Heavy rainfall in April is not too rare and occurs in Israel every three or four years, meteorologist Boaz Nechemia said.

But what made this system special was the fact that it affected most of the country, and was due to last for three days, said Nechemia, who runs the popular site providing weather forecasts for Jerusalem.

The rain didn’t come from Europe in the north, rather from the east and south, and therefore was not accompanied by strong wind and cold, Nechemia said.

“What happened today was that there was a high force of rain in a short period of time in a system that circled around Israel, hitting a different region each time,” he said.