Worst storms in decade bring Mideast to near standstill
BEIRUT (AFP) – The worst storms in a decade left swathes of Israel and Jordan under a blanket of snow and parts of Lebanon blacked out on Thursday, bringing misery to a region accustomed to temperate climates.
Freezing temperatures and floods since Sunday across the region have claimed at least 11 lives and exacerbated the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees huddled in tented camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
But for students in countries battered by the snow, rain and bitter winds, the storms meant they could cut classes as authorities ordered schools and universities closed in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.
With snow blanketing the war-hit Syrian capital Damascus, the education ministry Thursday announced that mid-term exams would be postponed in the country until further notice due to “the prevailing weather conditions”.
In Jordan, a blizzard brought the country to a near halt, as snow blocked most of roads in Amman and other parts in the desert kingdom, police said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II ordered the army to support the government, which declared Thursday a public holiday, in opening roads and helping those stranded in the snow, the palace said.
The storm has also triggered power blackouts in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.
In Lebanon parts of the country were plunged into darkness, leaving those who rely on electricity to heat their homes shivering.
Officials and residents blamed the outage on the storm and an open-ended strike by employees of the state-run Electricite du Liban power company over salaries and pension issues.
“There is a storm, and there is a problem in the grid. The electricity workers are on strike, and they’re not letting anyone fix the problem,” Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil told AFP on Thursday.