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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Heavy rain and snow wrecks Syrian refugee settlements in Lebanon

Thousands have been left in need of emergency assistance, according to aid workers.

A river that overflowed from rain water in Beirut, Lebanon
A river that overflowed from rain water in Beirut, Lebanon
Image: Bilal Hussein via PA Images

HEAVY RAINS AND snow have wrecked several informal settlements housing Syrian refugees in Lebanon and have left thousands in need of emergency assistance, according to aid workers.

Some of the worst affected were the refugees living in Arsal, a mountainous border area in northern Lebanon where the roofs of rudimentary shacks caved under the weight of the snow.

“Look at this weather, we are cut off from everything, the tent has collapsed, we turn to God,” one refugee there told AFP as snowflakes landed on her black headdress.

“The storm arrived yesterday and more than one metre of snow has fallen,” another refugee said. 

“There’s no food, no bread, and the road has been closed since yesterday.”

Snowfall is not unusual in the area but Lebanon has in recent days been hit by a prolonged patch of severe weather and a storm dubbed Norma.

Schools closed across the country, roads were cut off by flooding and pools of water formed in major underpasses in Beirut, wreaking traffic chaos across the capital.

LEBANON-TRIPOLI-EXTREME WEATHER-SYRIAN REFUGEES A refugee woman walks in flood water at a Syrian refugee camp on the outskirts of Tripoli, Lebanon Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, many of whom live in informal settlements that have little or no infrastructure.

The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said emergency measures had been put in place to rescue stranded families and help those suffering from the cold.

“Across Lebanon, at least 66 informal settlements have been found heavily impacted by the flooding, 15 of which have completely flooded or collapsed,” UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled said.

“Around 300 people have been relocated so far in the north and the (eastern) Bekaa” region, she told AFP.

The UN agency and its partners were distributing relief items such as new tents, blankets, mattresses and drainage kits.

“UNHCR and partners estimate that approximately 850 informal settlements, hosting 50,000 refugees, are at risk of flooding,” Abou Khaled said.

The bad weather had also hit Syrians displaced within their own country.

Tents were flooded in a camp in the northern province of Idlib, Syria’s last rebel stronghold which borders Turkey.

Heavy rain and gusts of wind had swept up clothes and furniture, burying some in the mud, an AFP contributor said.

“The flood took away everything in its path: tents, cooking (equipment), covers,” said Faisal Abu Zeid, originally from the neighbouring province of Hama.

“We don’t have food or water… 25 families have found refuge in the mosque,” in the border town of Atme, he added.

© AFP 2019  

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