Dubai The severe winter storm that played havoc in several parts of the region during the last three days has claimed two more lives in Lebanon raising the toll in that country to four people.
“Four people died and 55 others were injured as a result of traffic accidents caused by rains and floods,” a Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh told the Voice of Lebanon radio station late Monday.
Also yesterday, heavy storms caused chaos in many parts of Israel and led to gridlock in Tel Aviv, where police recommended motorists stay out of the city.
Police closed the Ayalon highway, Tel Aviv’s main north-south artery, after the Ayalon river — normally a dry river bed running between its lanes — flooded.
The rains also forced the temporary shutdown of many train stations throughout the country, including the four urban ones in Tel Aviv, and police recommended train travel only in case of emergency.
Roads in northern Israel, the West Bank, and by the Dead Sea in the east were closed because of flooding.
The storm, which arrived from Russia on Sunday, has also caused extensive damage to homes, businesses, crops and public infrastructure across Lebanon.
Poor families and Syrian refugees who are living in dire conditions also bore the brunt of the storm.
Public and private schools were ordered shut yesterday and today over safety concerns as Lebanon braced itself for more high winds, rain and snow.
The storm, according to the Nicholas Shahine Meteorology centre, is one of the strongest in Lebanon in 25 years. Several highways in the capital, Beirut, which were flooded led to massive traffic jams. Some roads which have been closed following their blockade by uprooted trees were reopened for traffic yesterday.
A report by the Meteorological office at Beirut airport said the storm would continue until Thursday. Flights at Beirut airport were not affected by the storm but maritime operations were stopped at south Lebanon’s Sidon and Tyre ports, a local report said.
It said today’s weather is expected to be rainy accompanied by thunderstorms. The weather department said the storm would also bring lower temperatures and snow is expected to fall as low as 600 meters above sea level and 300 meters during the night.
The department is expecting rainy weather Thursday with intermittent snow at 200 meters above sea level and even lower temperatures.
Meanwhile, Israel Army Radio reported that the Sea of Galilee, the country’s main water reservoir, rose 22 centimetres overnight, a new record rise for the time period.
The storms have been described as the worst in a decade. The rain and winds, accompanied by unseasonably cold temperatures, are expected to continue for the rest of the week.
The stormy weather came as Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land celebrated Christmas.
In the Gaza Strip, “civil protection teams responded to a number of incidents, among them the collapse of shop signs, roads blocked by falling trees and metal awnings blown away,” the civil protection service said.
In the West Bank, civil protection spokesman Louai Bani Odeh said no injuries had been reported so far.
Refugees suffering in cold
ZAATARI, Jordan Syrian refugees in a Jordanian camp attacked aid workers with sticks and stones on Tuesday, frustrated after cold, howling winds swept away their tents and torrential rains flooded muddy streets overnight.
Police said seven aid workers were injured.
The refugees may be about to face even deeper misery with warnings of a major snowstorm threatening Jordan and Turkey - the two countries with the largest Syrian refugee populations.
“It is hell - boiling hot in the summer and freezing cold now,” lamented Ahmed Zibi, 45, who said he spent the night watching over his five children when his tent collapsed. “Rain flooded the tent and its shafts submerged and collapsed on us.”
The riot broke out after the region’s first major winter storm this year hit the Zaatari refugee camp, home to nearly 50,000 refugees in Jordan’s northern desert. Inside the camp, pools and lakes surrounded tents, stranding refugees including pregnant women and infants.