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Jordan floods kill 12 people, forcing thousands of tourists to flee Petra

Army deploys helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to help with search and rescue operation after torrential rains sweep south of the kingdom
Civil defence members look for missing persons after rain storms unleashed flash floods in Madaba city (Reuters)

Flash floods have killed at least 12 people in Jordan and forced nearly 4,000 tourists to flee the famed ancient desert city of Petra, officials have said.

Search teams on Saturday were scouring valleys near the historic hill town of Madaba for two young girls still missing after Friday's floods, civil defence spokesman Iyad Amru told state television in an update.

Five people have already been confirmed dead in the area southwest of the capital Amman after torrential rains swept the south of the kingdom.

To the east, three people were killed near Dabaa on the Desert Highway, one of Jordan's three main north-south arteries, while one was killed near Ma'an in the south.

Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said the highway was cut in both directions, the AFP news agency reported.

The Jordanian army deployed helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to help with the search and rescue operation.

A rescuer was also among the dead, the civil defence spokesman said.

State television said the waters had reached as high as four metres in parts of the red-rock ravine city of Petra and the adjacent Wadi Musa desert.

It broadcast footage of tourists sheltering on high ground on both sides of the access road to Jordan's biggest attraction.

The government spokeswoman said 3,762 tourists were evacuated.

Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985, Petra draws hundreds of thousands of tourists a year to its rock-hewn treasury, temples and mausoleums.

Its buildings have been used as sets for several Hollywood blockbusters including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The latest deaths come after flash floods on 25 October in the Dead Sea region of the kingdom killed 21 people, most of them children on a school trip.

Jordan's education and tourism ministers both resigned last week over failings in the government's response to those floods.

The education ministry ordered schools closed nationwide on Saturday amid warnings of more heavy rains.

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