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Entire school field trips system needs revisiting

Oct 27,2018 - Last updated at Oct 27,2018

The government has opened a probe, and rightly so, into the tragedy that befell students at the Dead Sea when flashfloods on Thursday swept many of them to death and injured scores of others.

It is always a tricky exercise to try apportioning guilt or responsibility for the tragedy and any postmortem must reckon with the legal implications associated with the tragedy and hold all those who could be accountable for the tragedy in a court of law.

True, there was a general warning by the Jordan Meteorological Department that the country would be affected on Thursday and Friday by a depression accompanied by heavy rain and flashfloods in many parts of the country, but there was no specific warning for the Dead Sea area. The school which authorised and organised this field trip for its students must have known, or should have known, about the severe weather conditions affecting many parts of the country that could reach the Dead Sea as well.

The Ministry of Education must have also taken notice of the upcoming weather conditions and should have acted accordingly by issuing a blanket warning to all schools to suspend or cancel any field trips for their students in any part of the country due to weather conditions.

The school in question had the consent of the authorities to go ahead with its field trip for its students to the Azraq area but not to the Dead Sea area. It turned out that Azraq was also affected by severe weather conditions. Flashfloods are by nature unpredictable weather conditions, even to the weather experts. I recall that in the past, scores of foreign tourists to Petra were swept away by flashfloods that caught everybody by surprise. Similar flashfloods have occurred in the country over the years that claimed the lives of many unsuspecting people.

In retrospect, ascertaining or apportioning legal responsibility is no easy task under any circumstances. Some legal scholars would argue that sudden maverick weather conditions are acts of God and do not necessarily create legal responsibility, except when there is negligence bordering on criminal responsibility.

Civil responsibility is another thing and is based on other degrees or elements of negligence. But let there be a lesson to all stakeholders, including schools, authorities and even parents, to exercise more prudence and diligence when students are invited to take part in school field trips under any weather condition.

Lest we forget, many students on field trips also lost their lives due to traffic conditions. This whole regime affecting school field trips needs to be revisited.

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