Snow, rain and storms wreak havoc in Middle East

Fuel shortages, price rises in Lebanon and flimsy tents in Syria bring suffering to already challenging circumstances

Heavy rain, snow and storms have caused disruption in countries including Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon this week.

It damaged refugee tents and sent heating costs soaring for vulnerable people across the region. Even where the cold was milder, low visibility and slippery roads caused traffic accidents.

Here’s a look at the how the weather is having an impact on people across the region.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, the cold has been compounded by an electricity crisis and soaring prices of fuel. Inhabitants in the northern region of Akkar, where temperatures dropped below freezing on Thursday, said they were struggling.

“I broke two doors in my house to burn them for heating,” said Muhammad Addali, a 34-year old municipality employee in Fneidek, a town covered in snow.

With the plummeting value of the Lebanese pound and soaring inflation, he has been able to afford only 10 litres of fuel to heat his home, where he lives with his parents, wife, daughter and four-month-old baby.

But the fuel lasts only one day and costs $75 or twice the value of his monthly salary, which has been cut significantly with the devaluation of the local currency since the start of the country’s worst-ever economic crisis two years ago.

For Mohammed Omer, the next few days will be tough as he struggles to maintain a wood-fired heater for hot water and heating.

He said he has only enough wood to get him through this storm, as forecasters predict three days of extreme cold.

“There is no electricity and diesel is expensive and I had get a bit of wood. I have to find a way to have hot water in this cold,” he said.

Read more: As snow hits Lebanon, people burn rubbish and clothes to stay warm

Egypt

Temperatures across Egypt remained the same on Thursday, continuing a five-day cold spell which brought daytime temperatures in Cairo down to 14°C, and as low as 6°C at night.

Clouds in Cairo’s skies, which were markedly dense throughout last week, will stay the same, the country’s meteorologists said.

Residents hope forecasts of warmer weather at the weekend will prove accurate as snow continues to fall over the summits of Mount Sinai, the only area of Egypt where the temperature dropped below zero.

The Egyptian Meteorological Authority (Ema) announced on Wednesday night that a significant air mass was arriving from Europe, it is expected to cause a drop in temperatures in the south, particularly in Sinai and upper Egypt.

Lower Egypt and its northern Mediterranean coast will continue to record highs of 16°C and lows of 9°C over the course of next week, the Ema statement said.

Earlier this winter, the country saw a wave of rainy weather that caused flash floods in several areas. But Ema did not predict any rainfall over the course of next week. However, temperatures will probably remain on the colder side.

Palestine

Residents of Ramallah woke on Thursday to views of snow blanketing everything.

State-owned Palestine TV said the heavy snowfall had a small impact on traffic.

The Palestinian Meteorological Department said winds could reach 70 kilometres per hour and warned of high seas, low visibility and slippery roads at the weekend.

الثلوج من بلدة دير جرير شرق رام الله صباح اليوم

Posted by ‎تلفزيون فلسطين Palestine TV‎ on Thursday, January 20, 2022

Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron are expected to encounter low temperatures of almost 0°C while Gaza remains slightly warmer, at 8°C to 12°C.

Syria

In Syria’s north-west, where thousands of internally displaced people live in tented camps, heavy snowfall damaged belongings and has already taken a life.

At least 22 sites in Aleppo and nine in Idlib were affected, the UN said.

Over 2,124 people from 429 families have been affected, and at least one child has been killed after snow accumulated on the roof of his tent, causing it to collapse in the Qastal Miqdad area.

His mother is in intensive care.

“The most pressing needs are reopening of the roads for uninterrupted access to the sites, moving the affected persons to safe places, securing means for heating, replacing destroyed tents, providing ready-to-eat meals and winter clothes for children and families,” the UN said in its latest flash update on Wednesday.

Read more: Syria’s displaced and most vulnerable hit by heavy snowfall

Around the region

Snow also fell from Iraq's Kurdistan to Saudi Arabia's deserts.

For those in the semi-autonomous region of Iraq, this meant travel chaos with mountainous roads between key cities as snow in Kurdistan piled up and freezing temperatures made it impassible.

In Saudi Arabia, tourists and locals in the country's north enjoyed the sight.

Updated: January 21, 2022, 6:50 AM
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