Heavy rains and floods killed at least 11 people in Jordan and forced the authorities to evacuate more than 3,700 tourists from the ancient city of Petra on Friday.

The visitors were taken to safe areas before flooding flooded parts of the mountain city, which is famous for its carved rock ruins, government spokesman Jumana Ghunaimat said.

In a previous statement, Ghunaimat said two women and one girl had died in Madaba Province when their vehicle was cleared away, adding that nine people were hospitalized, including some in critical condition.

Friday afternoon, heavy rains and floods began. In Wadi Musa, the city near Petra in southern Jordan, water poured from the nearby mountains into a dry riverbed that ran through the community.

Ahmed Shamaseen, 29, owner of guest house Petra Harmony, told the news agency The Associated Press that he heard a thunderous noise, ran outside and saw water pouring in the direction of Petra with tree stumps, rocks and rubble. He said several stores near the Petra Visitor Center were badly damaged by floods.

Shamaseen said a couple from the Netherlands and their one-year-old child would visit Petra when the tide set in. He says the couple told him after returning to the guesthouse that they would have to climb higher ground to avoid the water.

The authorities explained the state of emergency in the port city of Aqaba on the Red Sea further south, as the afternoon began the downpour.

A highway connecting Amman with the south has also been closed. The government announced on Saturday the closure of universities and schools. Mosques were opened to house civilians in the flooded areas.

Two weeks ago, 21 people died, mostly children, after decades of flooding during a school trip in the Dead Sea in one of the worst natural disasters in the country.

Politicians and members of the public criticized the emergency services at the time, saying that the crews were unprepared and that two ministers had been forced to resign after a parliamentary committee found negligence.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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