A group of about 50 pilgrims from Vasai on a visit to Christian holy places in Israel and Egypt were rescued by Egyptian army personnel after their bus broke down in heavy floods, near Taba, on Wednesday.
According to information gathered from the families of the pilgrims, most of them from Giriz, the group was on its way from Israel into Egypt by road, when unexpected heavy rain in the border region covering south Israel, the Red Sea and Sinai region resulted in major floods in many parts, blocking main roads.
Dominica Dabre, whose relative is among the pilgrims, said, "We have learned that the group is safe and they have been given shelter at a hotel in Taba."
Taba is a small Egyptian town on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, which is also Egypt's busiest border crossing with Israel. Among the pilgrims are women, kids and some elders.
"It seems that they had to wade through water that came up to their chest, their bags and the kids on their heads, for nearly three hours, and with the rain continuing, till they settled at a spot on a hill side," Dabre said.
The pilgrims were picked up by rescuers from the Egyptian army from the hill side. Shyam Patkar, one of the pilgrims, told this correspondent over telephone from the hotel in Taba, "Had we not made it to the hill spot we may have drowned. The rescue team of military men and doctors gave us food and then took us to the hotel."
Patkar said they may try to complete the tour if the weather subsides. The Vasai group set out on their trip on May 3 and were scheduled to return on May 14.
News reports from the region describe similar instances of stranded tourists being evacuated by helicopter and jeeps, as rain and isolated storms continued on Thursday.
"When we set out for Egypt there was some rain. But as we got to the border we could only see water everywhere. Some buildings nad trees had collapsed. Soon our bus broke down, so we had to get out and try to get to safety," Patkar recounted. "We had a tough time. All are safe, thanks be to God."
Vivek Pandit, member of the legislature elected from Vasai, said he was in touch with the Israeli consulate and the embassy who had assured that the group would receive all the help necessary.