AMMAN: The death toll from flash floods in Jordan rose to 12 on Saturday and nearly 4,000 tourists were evacuated from the ancient city of Petra amid a four-meter-high deluge.
In the southern town of Maan, authorities opened a shelter for dozens of people whose homes were surrounded by water.
The 12 people who died included two children and a diver who had been taking part in rescue efforts. Two of the bodies were found on Saturday.
Among those confirmed dead were six people found in the Madaba area southwest of the capital, Amman. To the east, three people were killed near Dabaa on the Desert Highway, and one was killed near Maan in the south.
Search teams were scouring valleys near the historic hill town of Madaba for a young girl who was still missing, civil defense spokesman Iyad Amru said.
The Jordanian Army deployed helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to help with search and rescue operations after floodwater cut off the Desert Highway.
Authorities banned all tourist trips and declared a state of emergency in the Red Sea port city of Aqaba as the downpour continued.
The latest torrent came two weeks after 21 people, most of them children, were killed in flash floods near the Dead Sea. The tourism and education ministers resigned over the Dead Sea flooding.
The water reached as high as four meters on Friday in parts of Petra and the adjacent Wadi Musa desert.
Jordan's state news agency Petra quoted government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat as saying that evacuations will be carried out in coordination with the local councils of municipalities and provinces, directors of public works and public security, and the civil defense.
Scores of people were injured and dozens more evacuated as homes were flooded.
Friday's floods came two weeks after 21 people, including middle school students, were killed in flash floods near the Dead Sea. Jordan's tourism and education ministers resigned after the incident.
In Petra, Jordan’s leading tourist attraction, heavy rain began at about 1 p.m. and lasted for about 40 minutes.
At about 3 p.m. a torrent of water came gushing through the site’s steep and narrow access canyon, flooding the area within minutes, said Rafael Dorado, 41, a tourist from Spain.
He watched from a hilltop temple in the area, and saw other visitors scrambling to higher ground. Some were evacuated by trucks and others made their way out on foot.
Suleiman Farajat, the chief administrator in Petra, said the site would remain closed on Saturday for clearing-up operations, but would probably reopen on Sunday. He had never seen flooding of such intensity. “It’s really, I wouldn’t say scary, but surprising how huge the flood was,” he said.
Elsewhere, rising water levels forced the closure of a desert highway. And in Mafraq province, officials said most of the people living near rivers and valleys had been evacuated to higher ground.
Ghunaimat says several people are missing and that searches are continuing.
In Kuwait, flash floods after heavy rain killed a 30-year-old man on Saturday and damaged roads, bridges and homes. The man who died was swept away as he tried to rescue his family from their submerged home.
Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah chaired an emergency Cabinet meeting, and schools will be closed on Sunday as a precaution.