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As storm hits Mideast, refugees bear


Wed, 07/01/2015 - 20:00

A storm buffeted the Middle East with blizzards, rain and strong winds on
Wednesday, keeping people at home across much of the region and raising
concerns for Syrian refugees facing freezing temperatures in flimsy shelters.
Snowfall and gales in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley destroyed some refugee tents.
"There's no firewood, no diesel," said Ali Eshtawi, a refugee from Homs who
spoke by phone from a camp near the Syrian border where he said snow had
caused three tents to collapse, leaving 19 people without shelter.
The storm is forecast to last several days, threatening further disruption in

Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which
have all been affected.
A 35-year old Syrian shepherd and an eight-year old boy with him died in the
storm in the mountainous area between Lebanon and Syria, Lebanon's National
News Agency reported.
Snow blocked roads in the Bekaa Valley, where more than 400,000 Syrian
refugees are sheltering.
"We are worried that tents will be flooded. Refugees who don't have proper
access to clean water or can't store drinking water will be in severe difficulties if
we don't reach them in the next two days," Lauriane Gauny, programme
manager in the Bekaa Valley with the aid agency Oxfam told Reuters.
Transport was disrupted across the region: Israeli police closed the main
highways to Jerusalem intermittently, while Beirut airport was briefly closed on
Tuesday night.
Damascus was carpeted with snow. There was also heavy snowfall across large
parts of Turkey.
Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) cancelled dozens of flights between Turkey's
biggest cities and to several international destinations. Budget airline Pegasus
(PGSUS.IS) also cancelled some flights.
Night-time temperatures in Ankara were forecast to plunge to minus 17 degrees
Centigrade and natural gas consumption spiked to record levels in Turkey as
people tried to heat their homes, forcing some usually gas-fired power stations to
switch to fuel oil to generate electricity, a Turkish energy official said.
Wind and rain struck the Gaza Strip, where infrastructure and thousands of
homes were destroyed in a 50-day war with Israel in July and August.
"Even nature is angry. I hope God is not angry with us. I am not scared of the
storm. I am frightened for the fate of those without shelters, whose houses Israel
destroyed," said Gaza City resident Abu Ahmed, on his way to the grocery to buy
fuel for a fire. The enclave has electricity for six hours a day