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Schools closed as flooding hits Lebanon

Schools shut for two days as stormy weather sparks widespread flooding across country leaving one man killed.
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2013 22:40
In country's south, there were massive tailbacks after several rivers burst their banks cutting highways [AFP]

At least one man has been killed and a baby is missing as stormy weather sparked widespread flooding in Lebanon, prompting chaos on the roads and a nationwide school closure for the next two days.

The baby was washed away as the floods swept a Bedouin encampment in the centre of the country on Monday, in what the meteorological office described as a "rare storm".

The education ministry announced the closure of all public and private schools on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A statement issued by Education Minister Hassan Diab attributed the closure to the ongoing storm which the Meteorological Department said will continue for the next two days.

Police have identified the dead man as Joseph Antoine Sfeir. They said the 69-year-old man was killed when his car skidded due to heavy rain on the Zhaima-Mansourieh road in the Metn region north of Beirut.

Meanwhile, civil defence said rescue teams were still searching for seven-month-old Youssef al-Fadel as rain continued to lash for a second day.

'Rare storm'

"There has been a decrease in floods since midday [Monday] which will allow our teams to go down to the valley and search for the baby," one official told The Daily Star newspaper.

"This is a rare storm. Lebanon hasn't witnessed such a storm in decades," a source at the meteorological office told the Lebanese paper.

The source said the storm, coming from Russia, reached its peak strength on Sunday and Monday.

"However, it will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday with heavy rains and thunder storms and lower temperatures," the source added.

In the south, there were massive tailbacks after several rivers burst their banks cutting highways. In the Sidon area, police were reduced to patrolling by jet-ski.

A meteorological official at Beirut airport said the storm would continue until Wednesday and that lower temperatures would result in snowfall in the mountains as low as 300 metres.

"Every five years or so, a storm like this strikes Lebanon from Russia," he told AFP news agency.

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