Storms in Mideast kill British tourist, 6 others

Mideast Israel Palestinians Weather
Israelis look at the site where a bridge was swept away in floodwaters near the border between Israel and Egypt in the Negev Desert.Ariel Schalit / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rare torrential rains across the Middle East swept away homes, marooned resort towns and killed seven people Monday, including a British tourist, in what officials are calling the worst flooding in at least a decade.

The flooding along Egypt's Red Sea coast, the border with Israel and in the south left six people dead. It also damaged the roads leading to the resorts in the Sinai desert and brought down telephone and power lines.

Israel temporarily closed its southern border crossings with Egypt and Jordan, while Jordanians were warned off the streets after nearly a dozen accidents in one area.

Rains of this magnitude, which began Sunday night, are rare in this largely arid region and where heavy precipitation can result in sudden and deadly flash floods.

A British tourist sailing down the Nile near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan died when his sail boat capsized in the heavy winds and sudden rain. The victim's wife and two companions, a Canadian and an Indian, survived, according Maj. Gen. al-Shafei Hassan, chief of criminal investigation in the southern city of Aswan.

The heavy rains also washed away a dozen mud brick homes in southern Egypt and killed two women there. Scores of families in Aboul-Rish village in Aswan slept overnight outdoors after their homes were destroyed.

In the famed monument city of Luxor, just to the north, the bad weather caused power failures in several neighborhoods and disrupted Nile cruises, sailboat and ferry schedules.

In neighboring Israel, a woman drowned when her car was caught in a flash flood in the south, where stormy weather also blocked the main road to the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

A bridge also collapsed near a cargo crossing between Egypt and Israel

Flooding wiped out large sections of a major road in Egypt's south Sinai and destroyed two dozen homes in Ras Sudr, according to Mohammed Fayez, the head of emergency services.

The heavy rains also killed one woman, left 14 missing and damaged the roof of Sharm el-Sheik's old airport, he said. President Hosni Mubarak flew to Sharm el-Sheik and inspected the damage.

Egypt's Middle East News agency reported that Mubarak ordered compensation be paid to the victims of the floods and he advised against the building of traditional mud brick homes.

Witnesses in Taba, another tourist resort across the border from Israel, said the churning waters swept the sand on the beaches out to sea.

In northern Sinai, officials at the provincial operation room dealing with the crisis said the flooding destroyed over 100 homes and many village huts.

Mohammed al-Kiki, a local government official, said a flash flood overcame a dam and a man was killed near the border with Israel.

Finally in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, a 24-year-old Egyptian woman drowned when flooding swept her off a main road, according to the state news agency.

The agency also reported five Egyptian ports on the Red Sea were also shut because of stormy seas, and lack of visibility.