2 die as storm whips Israel, Palestinians

2013-01-09 11:54
A vehicle drives through flood waters in the Mediterranean coastal city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. (Jack Guez, AFP)

A vehicle drives through flood waters in the Mediterranean coastal city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. (Jack Guez, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Two women were declared dead on Wednesday after flooding in the northern West Bank swept their car away, as a fierce storm whipped the region, and forecasters predicted snow as temperatures dropped.

Israel and the Palestinian territories have been lashed by heavy rain and high winds since Sunday, which has caused flooding across the region.

In the northern West Bank, near the city of Tulkarem, two women - one from the ancient Samaritan community - were found dead in a car after going missing on Tuesday night.

A third passenger, believed to have been the taxi driver, was retrieved alive but was reportedly in serious condition.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, snow began to fall shortly after 08:00, and Jerusalem was bracing for snowfall expected to begin at midday and continue into Thursday.

The municipality announced schools would close at noon, and a small fleet of tractors was on standby to clear routes in the case of serious snow in the area.

Evaluating situation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday he would be meeting the public security minister and the police chief to "evaluate the situation", after Tel Aviv's main transport artery was closed for most of Tuesday, causing large traffic jams.

The heavy rain has also flooded streets in many West Bank cities, and the Palestinian Authority ordered schools to take Wednesday and Thursday off.

An Israeli army spokesperson said that on Tuesday, soldiers helped evacuate a bus carrying 30 Palestinian children, as well as an ambulance stuck in floodwaters in the Jenin area of the northern West Bank.

On the Israeli side, army helicopters were used to rescue people from roofs and the tops of cars, and some 300 families from Bat Hefer, north of Tel Aviv, were evacuated from their homes after the nearby Shekhem river burst its banks.

The northern Israeli city of Hadera was without electricity from Tuesday night into Wednesday after floodwaters took out the local power plant.

Israel's meteorological office has said this winter is set to be the wettest in a decade.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel  |  weather
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