The massive storm that shook Israel last week was thought to have passed, but Israelis were caught by surprise Sunday when a torrential downpour began near the Dead Sea, where 60 students from a high school seminary were trapped in a cave in Wadi Qelt, north-east of Jerusalem.
The students were rescued Sunday afternoon after several hours of being trapped in the cave.
"At first there was a drizzle of rain and they told us that we'd keep following the path. Then suddenly, in one instant there was a downpour and we started to run like mad men," said Amitai, one of the rescued students.
"We reached a sort of cave to shelter us from the rain. We slipped a few times on the way there. One of the students called rescue forces."
Roei, another one of the students said, "We stayed in the cave and there was a lot of pressure and fear and a few of the kids cried. One of them even threw up from the fear. They instructed us not to leave our location."
Parts of Highway 90 were still under water on Saturday. (Photo: Police Spokesperson's Unit)
Highway 90 even collapsed in some places from the weight of the floods. (Photo: Police Spokesperson's Unit)
Photo: Police Spokesperson's Unit
Cars parked near an Egyptian border crossing on Friday. (Photo: Yair Shagai)
Dozens of Israeli-Arab families were also trapped just on the Egyptian side of the border because of the rains. One resident from Umm al-Fahm said, "We're stuck here and we're not sure what to do. We were supposed to go back to Israel today, but the Egyptians won't let us because of the flooding. We requested that the Israeli Foreign Ministry get involved."
Tami Dayan, a Jerusalem resident who was in Wadi Qelt on an unconnected day-trip also took cover in the cave.
"There was one point that was really scary when we saw that they water was starting to rise and we weren't sure if the place we were at was safe enough. We were scared not just for ourselves, but also fro the children that were there," she said.
"They were in a group with their Rabbi and when the rains started we tried to pray in the direction of the cave entrance but then we could see that this wasn't a good idea, so we moved back and stood in the place that seemed the safest."
"We saw the police helicopter and the kids waved at it. We were freezing cold and wet and we tried to warm up with some tea that we made," she recounted.
Meanwhile, Highway 90, which runs from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea resort of Ein Bokek, was closed on Saturday between Neve Zohar and HaArava Junction.
The road had been perilously close to impassible even before the collapse, with vehicles becoming amphibian for a few minutes as they were navigated the flooded road. Traffic police directed drivers to alternate routes, and asked people to refrain from travelling in the area. Police also provided escorts for drivers travelling from Eilat in the Dead Sea area.
The National Roads Authority is trying to repair the damage and drain the water from the heart of the flooding. Police said it is as yet unclear as to how long it will take to finish the work, but for now the road remains closed.
The head of the local traffic police, Chief Superintendent Yossi Avitan, said that they decided to close the road "following the collapse of one of the lanes, and due tothe fear that the other lane might also collapse. There is also a section of the road close to the Dead Sea Works, which is completely flooded and poses a real danger to drivers, so we decided to close it."
Residents of Tamar Regional Council are the main victims of the flood damage, and will be forced to make an hour's detour to get to their homes. Students from nearby towns will also have to make a long detour via Arava junction in order to get to school in Ein Gedi.
Mayor of Tamar Regional Council Dov Litvinoff said that the Public Works Department is doing all it can to repair the road, but said they could have begun repairs earlier in order to speed up the process. He predicted that the work would likely be completed by Monday.
The floods also disrupted the traffic at Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The area was completely submerged, causing 300 Israelis to become stranded.
On the Egyptian side of the border, large amounts of water led to the closure of the crossing. Eilat firefighters managed to remove the water using special pumping equipment.