Published on April 26 in The Jerusalem Post
Ten youths, nine girls and a boy from a pre-military academy, were killed after they were carried off by a surge in the Tzafit stream west of the southern part of the Dead Sea amid intense storms that hit the South of Israel on Thursday.
The body of a missing female student was located late Thursday night, bringing the death toll to 10, after search and rescue operations in the Judean Desert continued through the night. Efforts were earlier halted around 8 p.m. due to danger posed to the team by the harsh weather conditions.
Two other students of the school, the Bnei Zion Academy in Tel Aviv, were moderately wounded and were taken to the Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba. Thirteen of the students were found by search and rescue teams and were uninjured.
According to a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, a medical team from the co-ed Bardelas Battalion stationed in that area came to the scene.
Three teams of the IDF’s elite 669 Search and Rescue Unit, aided by their three Yasur and two Yanshuf helicopters, searched for the missing. In addition, teams from the IDF’s Oketz canine unit and Yahalom joint special-combat engineering unit took part in the search.
The statement added that the commander of the 80th “Edom” Division was also deployed to the scene.
Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that an inquiry into the tragedy had been opened. Media reports suggested that the head of Bnei Zion had been taken in for questioning. Police opened an investigation and took staff members, including the principal, in for questioning and later arrested two staff members, police announced on Friday. The third remains under house arrest.
Magen David Adom EMT Eitan Shlomo, who evacuated the two injured teenagers to Soroka Medical Center, said: “On the way to the scene we drove past large puddles and flooding on the road. With the help of 4X4 vehicles we were able to arrive. We joined the MDA crews at the scene next to the entrance to the river and we treated and evacuated two 17 year olds suffering from injuries to their faces, limbs and heads. They were rescued by air force helicopters. They were evacuated to Soroka hospital in light to moderate condition.”
“We were unable to escape the current and were swept away by the river,” a rescued youth said on Channel 10 News.
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN, in a statement on the tragedy, said: “Our prayers and thoughts are with our brothers, our children, and our loved ones who are in trouble. We are closely following the updates from the South and send a warm embrace to the worried families. We will strengthen all the security and rescue forces, who are in the process of search and rescue and medical treatment. I ask you all, please follow the instructions of the police and rescue forces and be attentive to them.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was closely following the rescue mission and was updated over the phone by IDF Operations Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Yoav Har-Even.
“I support the security and rescue forces that are currently working to save lives and to locate those missing in the severe disaster that occurred today in the Tzafit River,” said Netanyahu. “We are all praying for better news.” [...]
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