Nine Dead as Violent Storms Shake the Middle East from Syria to Egypt
At least nine people were killed Wednesday in violent storms sweeping the eastern Mediterranean, with dozens injured, hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and the region suffering widespread power outages.
Seven Egyptians drowned when their fishing boat sank in a storm in the Mediterranean sea near Egypt's Port Said, the coast guard said.
The boat's owner and one other person managed to swim safely to shore, but the owner's 12-year-old son and the six others perished in waves that rose several meters (yards) high, he added.
There were no reports that Port Said, where the Suez Canal leads to the Mediterranean Sea, was closed because of the weather.
The seaports in Alexandria and Dekheila were closed Wednesday for the second consecutive day, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported.
In Lebanon, police said two Syrian immigrant laborers, Jamal Abdallah Issa, 26, and Ghazi Faisal Abboud, 29, died when the main wall in their barracks collapsed during the night in Taalbaya in Lebanon's central Bekaa valley.
Snow trapped several hundred people in their cars for several hours, on the Dahr al-Baidar pass between Beirut and Damascus and on roads to ski resorts. Civil defense workers, the Red Cross and police rescued the stranded passengers.
Along the Lebanese coastline, winds of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour ripped trees from the ground, causing numerous accidents.
Flights to Beirut from Geneva and Frankfurt were forced to reroute to Cyprus.
The wind, rain and snow also damaged the country's power grids, leaving almost no section of the country immune to blackouts.
Twelve people were hurt, three seriously, by debris tossed by the strong winds that tore across Israel and the Palestinian territories, Israeli press reports said.
Snow covered the Golan Heights, seized by Israel from Syria in 1967, knocking out power lines and creating power outages.
An Israeli military helicopter rescued 12 Ukrainian sailors from a ship in difficulty off the coast and deposited them at the sea port of Ashdod south of Tel Aviv.
In Jordan, hail pounded the highways, leaving 20 injured.
Jordan's ministry of education closed a large number of schools due to the harsh weather conditions.
A massive sandstorm in southern Jordan left two dozen Jordanians and tourists suffering from breathing problems after being caught in the southern desert region of Petra.
The weather forced the closure of the desert highway from Amman to Saudi Arabia for several hours.
In Syria, the authorities shut down the Mediterranean ports of Lattakia and Tartus for 20 hours, but reopened them Wednesday, port authorities said.
The highway between Aleppo in the north and Damascus in the south was also closed.
Hammering rains and 100-kilometer winds and heavy snow pounded the area, including Damascus, which received its first snow in three years, severing power in sections of Syria.
But the storm also offered some relief to Jordan and Syria, two countries plagued by chronic water shortages. Al-Baath, the official paper of Syria's ruling party greeted the snow and rain as a symbol of "abundance."
The storm is expected to last until Thursday, according to meteorologists in Beirut – CAIRO (AFP)
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