A 38-year-old man drowned on Wednesday in a massive flood in the northern city of Nahariya after he was washed away by floodwater while trying to save a baby he believed was inside a flooded vehicle.
Moti Ben Shabbat was reported missing in the morning hours after he fell into the water, trying to rescue passengers whose vehicle had been trapped in a flood that besieged the entire city. His body was recovered several hours later.
The victim’s friend, Meir Rafael Chai Biton, said the incident took place at the city’s Green Square. According to him, several people became trapped in a car that got stuck in floodwater. Ben Shabbat and his friend heard the passengers screaming for help and jumped atop of the vehicle to free those trapped inside.
“He [the victim] feared there was a baby in the car, because he saw a baby chair. Moti was the first one to jump inside the car to try and save the baby he believed was still inside,” he said. “Once he jumped, he wasn’t seen again.”
It is believed he drowned in strong floodwater currents and was washed away to the shores of Nahariya’s Gathon stream where his body was eventually discovered.
Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene performed CPR on the man in an attempt to resuscitate him but had to eventually pronounce his death.
"We arrived to the beach, near the marina, with an intensive care unit,” said the first responder Eran Friedlander. “About 100 meters north of the Gathon stream, we saw the man who was unconscious, he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.”
Although the Nahariya Municipality had instructed its residents in the afternoon hours to not leave their homes due to unusually high amounts of rainfall, the victim’s friend believes the city’s authorities should have closed the major roads and intersections in order to avoid vehicles getting trapped in the floods.
“This terrible tragedy could have been avoided,” Biton said.
The local authorities said since the early morning hours at least 1,500 calls have been made to the Municipal Service Center.
Military trucks had to be used in order to rescue many residents trapped or stranded across the northern city. Firefighters also safely rescued 100 children and several staff members from an elementary Ussishkin School that was flooded.
The city’s officials said all local schools and educational facilities will be closed on Thursday due to fears that heavy rainfall will continue to batter the city and lead to even more widespread flooding.
The municipalities of the northern cities of Acre and Shlomi also said all local schools will be closed until the storm system passes.