Young couple drowns in underground lift after severe flooding blocked doors

A young couple suffered a nightmare death after the lift they were in broke down and flooded with water.

Dean Shoshani and Stav Harari, both 25, lived in an apartment building in Hatikvah, southern Tel Aviv.

On Saturday they got into the building's underground parking lift while the Israeli city was being lashed with torrential rain.

The water began pouring into the basement, causing an electrical fault which locked the elevator doors. Rainwater then started to fill the lift itself through an opening.

Neighbours heard the couple banging on the walls of the elevator, calling desperately for help. Multiple people called emergency services but due to the number of flood-related calls coming in that day, many of them went unanswered.

One tenant, identified as Eli, told local media he called emergency services 16 times and was hung up on.

"These people died in our hands," he said. "We heard them struggling to exit, we couldn't open the door. There was a moment when we stopped hearing them and we understood what had happened."

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It took more than half an hour for rescuers to arrive. Crews had to use scuba gear to find the couple, who were rushed to hospital but declared dead.

A relative of Mr Shoshani said the building's infrastructure was poorly maintained, and is blaming "criminal negligence" for the couple's horrific deaths.

"It is carelessness toward the residents of the neighbourhood by the municipality, criminal negligence," they said. "How could it take so long for the emergency services to arrive?"

Tzion, Mr Shoshani's father, told media neither the Tel Aviv police nor the fire service had contacted the family so far.

"It is very hard, fathers don't bury sons," he said. "Dean was charming, a great child, understanding. He always looked beyond."

Ms Harari's brother Amit took to Facebook where he expressed his grief.

"My older sister, light of the family, the most beautiful girl of all," he wrote. "I can't believe that I am waking up to a morning without you. It is not an easy thing to absorb, simply a tragedy for the family. A girl who only did good. I don't know how we will continue to live without you, you have left us with a wound that will never heal."

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he'd ordered a review into how the couple died, despite multiple calls being placed to emergency services.

"I asked PMO Acting Director General Ronen Peretz to convene a meeting today with all of the professional echelon in order to learn lessons so that such things do not recur," he said at his weekly Cabinet meeting.

The day after the deaths, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services issued a public warning about lifts during heavy rainfall. It said people should avoid entering underground areas or using elevators during flooding because of the risk of them short-circuiting.

Even those with disabilities were told to avoid using lifts until heavy rainfall or flooding has stopped.

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