Violent Storms Shake the Middle East from Syria to Egypt
Two men were killed in Lebanon, police said Wednesday, as a merciless storm ravaged the Middle East region, leaving people injured in Jordan and Israel, closing ports in Egypt and Syria, crippling power lines and trapping hundreds on snow-covered roads.
The storm is expected to last until Thursday, meteorologists said in Beirut.
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 resort. Civil defense workers, the Red Cross and police rescued the stranded passengers.
Along the Lebanese coastline, winds of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per 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 projectiles thrown by the strong winds which 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 Egypt, the seaports in Alexandria and Dekheila were closed Wednesday for the second consecutive day due to the extreme weather, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported.
The Egyptian Red Sea ports of Tawfiq and Adabeya were closed Tuesday, MENA reported.
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." – Beirut (AFP)
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