Jordan flash floods kill 12 and force tourist evacuation of Petra

Two women and two girls believed to be among those killed

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Flash floods in Jordan have killed 12 people and left several others injured, the state-run Jordan News Agency reported on Saturday, a day after heavy rain hit several parts of the country, including the ancient city of Petra.

Friday’s heavy downpours came two weeks after flash floods near the Dead Sea killed 21 people, most of them children. Politicians and members of the public criticised the emergency services at the time, saying crews were unprepared, and two ministers were forced to resign after a parliamentary committee found evidence of negligence.

Among those killed on Friday are believed to be two women and two girls. Nine others were injured.

Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat said two people remain missing. Civil Defence units on Saturday said they rescued two people and found the body of a third person in the Madaba region south of capital Amman, according to JNA.

Ms Ghuneimat said searches for the missing were ongoing. The Jordanian military sent soldiers and helicopters to assist in search operations. It also dispatched troops and armoured vehicles from its base in the southern town of Al Jafr to assist residents trapped by floods in nearby areas.

Civil defence divers searched for five people whose car was swept away by floods in Madaba, south-west of the capital, state news agency Petra said.

The army said on Saturday it provided shelter for more than 100 Syrian and Jordanian civilians in a military academy in the Maan governorate, to protect them from the floods.

The Madaba region, the Maan governorate and the ancient city of Petra were among the areas hit hardest by Friday’s storms.

Hundreds of visitors to Petra ran for higher ground as water surged through a narrow canyon leading to the Treasury, Petra's main attraction. Authorities were forced to move more then 3,700 tourists from the ancient city.

A highway that links Amman with the south was shut. The government also announced the closure of universities and schools on Saturday, while mosques were opened to shelter civilians in areas hit by the floods.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in the Red Sea port city of Aqaba further south as downpours started in the afternoon.

Videos posted on social media networks showed torrents of water gushing through the canyons and local reports claimed the floods panicked tourists.