ARSAL, Lebanon (AFP) – Heavy rains and snow wrecked several informal settlements housing Syrian refugees in Lebanon and left thousands in need of emergency assistance, aid workers said on Tuesday.
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,” one refugee there told AFP as snow flakes landed on her black head dress.
“The storm arrived on Monday 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 Monday.”
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 hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, many of whom live in informal settlements that have little or no infrastructure.
The United Nations’ (UN) refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (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.