It was a tragic end to the weekend plans of a Phoenix family that had come to celebrate a birthday. They wanted to cool off in a creek in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona and the spot they had selected was a Swimming Hole near Payson. However, things did not go as per plans and nine of them were swept away in a flash flood while a man is believed to be missing.

Details of the tragedy

Los Angeles Times reports that it was a warm summer day in Arizona and the group had made preparations to enjoy the cool surroundings when a severe thunderstorm happened in a nearby area and it dumped heavy rainfall on the mountain.

As a result, the floodwaters came rushing down the canyon and the revelers were caught unawares.

Gila County sheriff's office has clarified to the media that search-and-rescue crews recovered nine bodies that included five children and four adults. The recovery was nearly two miles down the river from the swimming hole and the victims included a 60-year-old woman and a two-year-old girl. Four others were rescued and hospitalized for treatment of hypothermia.

The sheriff's office also added that the waters gushed for about 10 minutes before it disappeared in the narrow canyon and, according to estimates, the floodwaters were not only high but wide as well. The National Weather Service had issued a warning of Flash Floods but no one had expected it to strike the way it did.

Probable reasons for flash floods

Weather is always an unpredictable factor and, the weatherman makes forecasts to caution the people about possible disturbances to enable them to take necessary precautions. These forecasts are usually based on past data that is available superimposed with latest trends and observations from satellites.

In this case, there were thunderstorms in the area as predicted, but there was no rain where the people were swimming. Obviously, the flash flood in the swimming hole took them by surprise and led to the tragedy.

Incidentally, loss of lives in flash floods is not new. There are past instances like the one in 2015 in Utah’s Zion National Park where the toll was seven.

Earlier to that, in 1997, flash floods killed 11 hikers near Page, Arizona.

Flash floods fall in the category of natural disasters but the blame cannot be assigned to the vagaries of nature. The man has an important role to play. It all boils to his disregard for the well-being of the environment. The loss of green cover due to deforestation is one factor because the roots of the trees bind the soil and, in the absence of trees, this soil is swept away and gathers momentum as the rain water hurtles downstream. The end result is disaster and death.