A torrential rainstorm swept through the Jordanian capital, Amman, on Thursday, triggering flash floods that drowned three people and left hundreds stranded on waterlogged thoroughfares.
Jordan’s state news agency, Petra, said a morning cloudburst “of no more than an hour” had wreaked havoc, submerging cars in Amman’s city tunnels as well as putting entire floors of buildings underwater.
By the end of the day, according to a statement by the Civil Defense Department, crews had rescued about 700 people trapped in water in addition to 305 vehicles stuck in flooded roads.
The department also said three people were killed, including two Egyptian boys, 12 and 6 years old, who drowned after water pressure crushed the wall of their basement apartment.
A widely shared video on social media purports to show the boys’ father, a janitor in the same building, crying as people tried to fish out the bodies. They were later retrieved by divers equipped with scuba gear, according to official reports.
Many Jordanians took to social media to upload videos and pictures of major Amman landmarks. One picture shows water almost reaching the top of the high wall flanking the Roman amphitheater in the heart of downtown.
Videos appearing under the hashtag #Amman_is_Drowning depict shocked people watching helplessly as cars were carried away by the current, pirouetting clumsily into oncoming traffic or light poles.
Some faced the deluge with humor.
Twitter user Alaa Ismail asked why would he pay a fortune “and go to Venice when you can easily [have it in] Amman?”
But others argued that it was another failure by a government plagued by accusations of mismanagement.
“Every year there’s a new weather catastrophe, and every year we see the same images.... Every year we shake our heads as someone else is lost in the water,” said blogger Naseem Tarawnah on his Facebook page.
The downpour came one day after a major sandstorm struck the area, covering everything in its path with a film of yellow dust. It also prompted U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, on a tour of the region to promote girls’ education, to cancel a visit to Jordan.
Bulos is a special correspondent