Snowstorm hits Lebanon, worsening conditions of Syrian refugees

BEIRUT -- A snowstorm engulfed Lebanon on the first day of the new year, cutting off mountain roads, isolating villages and worsening living conditions for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

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Many refugees, living in tents and huts in the eastern Bekaa Valley, only came briefly out of their shelters on Friday to clear the snow so their dwellings would not collapse.

Elsewhere, Syrian children were seen tossing snowballs at one another and playing in the snow. A child ran around in flip-flops, unfazed by the cold.

In the eastern town of Al-Marj near the Syrian border, the refugees said their biggest worry was the water, from rain or snow, leaking into the tents.

"We don't know when the tent will collapse on us," said a Syrian woman, who identified herself as Um Abdou. "When it's windy, we cannot sleep because we are scared that the tent will be blown away."

The storm, dubbed Vladimir, started on Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning many mountains roads were closed, including the highway linking Beirut with the Syrian capital of Damascus.

"Life is difficult inside the tent when it's raining and cold," said Jubair, another Syrian refugee who only gave his first name, fearing for his safety.

Police called on people to avoid mountain roads, citing the closures and bad visibility.

State-run National News Agency said dozens of cars were stuck on the road leading to the mountain resort of Ehden, adding that people were calling on the army to help them.

Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees -- equivalent to a quarter of the country's entire population.



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