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Jordan: Petra flash floods trigger evacuation of 1,700 people

Tourists flee water tearing through ancient monument as heavy rainfall pummels Middle East
Tourists were seen in video footage piling in to pick-up trucks to be evacuated (Screengrab)

Violent floods have ripped through the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan, triggering the evacuation of 1,700 tourists from the Unesco world heritage site.

Videos posted on Monday showed brown water careering down the steep cliffs surrounding Petra's ancient rock-cut Nabatean temple dubbed "the Treasury", the best-known part of the sprawling, 260-sq-km site.

Tourists in raincoats are seen looking bewildered and packing into pick-up trucks as the site's narrow passages, including the famed Siq, resemble rivers.

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According to Amman Net, three people were injured when flooding tipped over a minivan in the nearby Maan governorate, also in the south of the country.

Jordan map petra

Raed Khattab, head of the Jordan meteorological department, told the Petra news agency that southern Jordan was experiencing the worst of the rain.

Jordan's public security directorate, which issued a weather warning on Saturday, said there had also been landslides and rockfall on the road running along the Dead Sea.

In 2018, flooding killed 12 people at Petra, weeks after 21 people, mostly children on a school trip, died during floods in the kingdom's Dead Sea region.

In 1963, a flash flood killed 22 French tourists and their Jordanian guide in Petra.

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After that incident, Jordanian authorities built a dam to keep water out of the area around the Treasury. In 2014, an alarm system was added to warn about dangerous water levels.

Designated a Unesco world heritage site in 1985, Petra draws hundreds of thousands of tourists a year to its temples and mausoleums.

Its buildings, the majority hewn into cliffs, have been used as sets for several Hollywood blockbusters, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Heavy rainfall has caused flooding elsewhere in the Middle East in recent days.

Flash floods hit Saudi Arabia's Mecca on Friday morning following a night of torrential rain, damaging vehicles and properties in the holy city.

Rain also pummelled Baghdad and other areas in Iraq on Saturday, with municipal workers pumping water from the streets of the capital.

Parts of the United Arab Emirates were also flooded, as were Gaza and Egypt's Alexandria.

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