JERUSALEM — Grief at the death of 21 people, mostly schoolchildren, in a flash flood near the Dead Sea in Jordan turned to anger on Friday as the Jordanian government said that the school that organized the trip may not have had the proper permits.
The middle-school students, from a private school in Amman, the capital, were visiting hot springs on Thursday when rain storms unleashed floods that swept them into a valley.
The Jordanian Civil Defense Directorate said in a statement on Friday that paramedics had treated 35 people who had been injured in the flood and that rescuers were continuing to search for a number of missing people.
King Abdullah II canceled a scheduled visit to Bahrain and the Royal Court ordered the Jordanian flag to fly at half-staff for three days of mourning.
But as more details about the disaster emerged, the national anguish was mixed with rage
A government minister said the school did not abide by public safety regulations stipulating that students must be kept away from waterways, and the approval that the school received from the Education Ministry was for a trip to a different destination in Jordan’s eastern desert.
“There are several violations involved, including that the school did not conform to the clearance it received,” Jumana Ghunaimat, the minister of state for media affairs, told The Jordan Times, adding that the prime minister had instructed the government to immediately open an investigation. The newspaper reported that an angry group of the students’ relatives surrounded the school on Thursday evening, demanding that the school be held accountable for the flood deaths.
King Abdullah II reflected the mix of emotions, writing on Twitter on Friday, “I feel great pain and sadness, only equaled by my anger at all those who failed to take the right measures that could have avoided this painful tragedy.”
The Jordanian news agency Petra said the dead included three Iraqi citizens — two schoolchildren and a woman thought to have been a chaperone. The school party that set out for the hot springs reportedly included 37 children and seven chaperones. The ages and identities of the victims were not immediately released. Other people at the site were also apparently caught in the flood.
The rescue operation, which began on Thursday afternoon, involved helicopters and soldiers.
The Israeli Air Force and troops from its search-and-rescue unit assisted Jordanian forces in the effort to find the children following a request from Jordan, according to the Israeli military, and illuminated the search area from the air.
The Israeli military said on Friday that its troops returned to Israel after Jordan requested the search be called off, with severe weather ending any chance of finding survivors.
Video images from the scene showed rescue teams carrying bodies on stretchers up a rocky slope.
Ten Israeli teenagers were killed in similar circumstances in April when a flash flood swept them away while they were hiking in a riverbed near the Dead Sea on the Israeli side. The military academy that arranged the trip was accused of ignoring or underestimating forecasts of rain and the danger of flooding.
Also on Thursday, a 4-year-old boy drowned in another flash flood in southern Israel.