Snow falls in Middle East as strong winter storm lashes Syrian refugees

Syrians who fled their country's civil war huddled for warmth in refugee camps in Lebanon Wednesday as a snow storm swept across the region.

Life in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley grinds to a halt as schools, shops close

While daily life in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley ground to a halt due to the winter storm, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees struggled to find warmth. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)

Snow fell Wednesday across the Middle East as a powerful winter storm swept through the region, forcing Syrians who have fled their country's civil war to huddle for warmth in refugee camps.

The storm dumped rain and hail on Lebanon's coast and heavy snows in the mountains and central Bekaa Valley, where gas stations, banks, schools and most shops closed.

While the storm disrupted life for everyone, it proved particularly trying for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who live in tents and makeshift shelters in the Bekaa.

The Lebanese government estimates there are about 1.5 million Syrians in Lebanon, about one-quarter of the total population. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)
Near the town of Anjar, men used brooms and sticks to try to clear the heavy snow from the tops of refugee tents, fearing the weight might cause the shelters to collapse. Inside the tents, adults could be seen huddling around the wood burning stoves to try to keep warm.

Elsewhere, Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency over the storm. An 8-month-old Palestinian infant in the Tulkarem refugee camp was killed in a fire caused by a heating stove, Palestinian civil defence ministry spokesman Loae Bani Odeh said.

Snow accumulated in the Golan Heights and northern Israel. Schools across Jerusalem closed ahead of a forecast warning of 25 centimetres of snowfall.

The storm dumped rain and hail on Lebanon's coast and heavy snows in the mountains and central Bekaa Valley, where gas stations, banks, schools and most shops closed. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)
In Syria, snow blanketed Qassioun Mountain, which overlooks Damascus. The snowfall also brought traffic to a near standstill in the capital, Damascus, and prompted the Education Ministry to shutter school and universities for two days.

Heavy fogs also blanketed parts of Pakistan on Wednesday morning. Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said officials temporarily closed Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport due to the weather, diverting incoming flights to Lahore.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.