A Syrian refugee woman holds her baby as she stands in front of her tent at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019 Image Credit: Reuters

Beirut:At a makeshift camp in the Lebanese town of Arsal, refugees are burning their clothes trying to ward off the harsh cold as storms flood their tents.

"We have no fuel at all. People are tearing up clothes, burning plastic, whatever they can find to get warm," Abdallah Mokdeh said in the border town.

"This is the worst we've seen in years." Since 2011, more than a million Syrians have fled the war at home to Lebanon, where aid agencies say most live in severe poverty. Tens of thousands are in Arsal near the hills at the border with Syria.

"The roads are blocked. We called an ambulance and it did not come," said Mokdeh, a refugee who acts as a caretaker for the rows of tents pitched closely together on a patch of earth.

Floods ruined mattresses and destroyed tents, forcing some people to move in with their neighbours. Many were sick or elderly. Some tents already housed three families, he said.

"The snow, the cold have no mercy." Mahmoud Hakouk, a 60-year-old Syrian man at the same site, has struggled to stay dry. "I need a blanket," he said, shivering. "I swear to God I don't have enough to buy bread." The U.N. refugee agency said high winds, rain and snow had "heavily impacted" more than 150 informal settlements, including some that were fully flooded or collapsed. A child was reported missing, it said on Wednesday.

The heavy storm inundated hundreds of tented settlements across Lebanon and left youngsters stranded in freezing temperatures, charity Save the Children said.

"It's miserable here, we have tents that collapsed because of the intense wind," said Radwan Raad, standing in the snow at another ramshackle camp in Arsal.

Many of the camp's residents did not receive U.N. aid and could not afford food every day, he added.

Helem Amer, 85, wrapped herself in a blanket in her flimsy shelter at that camp. "I can't get up on my own, there's no fuel, nothing, nobody to help."


Civil Defense workers struggle to push a stranded car on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. A strong storm and heavy rainfall turned streets in Lebanon into rivers of water and mud and paralyzed parts of the country. The government ordered schools shut with snow expected to fall across the country at altitudes of 600 meters Image Credit: AP

A winter storm packing heavy rain and snow on Tuesday turned streets in Lebanon into rivers of water and mud and paralyzed parts of the country.

Among those affected were tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom live in tent settlements. In the eastern Bekaa Valley, many Syrian refugees stayed indoors next to diesel or wood heaters as snow covered their flimsy tents.

Authorities closed the highway linking Beirut with the Syrian capital, Damascus, after parts of it that cut through high mountains became covered with snow.

In the coastal town of Dbayeh, just north of Beirut, part of the highway was closed after it was filled with water. Rescuers later used small boats to help people stranded in their cars.

Most schools were closed Tuesday and the Lebanese education minister called for school to be closed even on the coast for a second day Wednesday.

On Monday, a woman gave birth in an ambulance as it took a long time to reach a hospital because of snow. The woman and the baby later arrived at the nearby hospital and both are in good health, according to state-run National News Agency.

The storm dubbed "Norma" began Saturday and is expected to reach its peak Tuesday night.