Israel flash floods leave several young people missing
JERUSALEM - Flash floods in southern Israel swept away a group of teens on a hiking trip on Thursday, leaving nine critically injured and one still missing, medics and media reports said.
The teenagers were part of a group of 25 caught up in the flood in an area near the Dead Sea frequented by hikers, after weather forecasts warned of storms.
Medics said in a statement that nine were critically injured and one remained missing. Thirteen were rescued safely while two others were being treated for light injuries, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.
They were part of a pre-army preparatory programme, Israeli media reports said. Students in such programmes are usually around the age of 18.
A major rescue effort had earlier been launched to find what had initially been reported as several missing.
"Police and emergency units continuing to search for a number of missing students in the south near the southern part of the Dead Sea," a police statement said earlier.
Military helicopters were taking part in the search in an area known as the Tzafit Stream, which hikers frequent for its desert scenery.
Police spokesman Merav Lapidot said on Israeli television that "instructions to avoid this type of drama" were not respected.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he supports "the efforts of rescue teams which are doing everything to save lives and find the missing".
"We are all praying for good news," he added.
President Reuven Rivlin said on Twitter that "our thoughts go out to our brothers, our children and our loved ones who are dealing with a dramatic situation."
He also called on the public to "respect police instructions".
Two teenagers died in a series of floods that hit Israel and the Palestinian territories on Wednesday, the first of three forecast days of heavy rain.