The bodies of nine Syrian refugees who crossed into Lebanon were found frozen in a mountainous area near the border with Syria, according to the Lebanese army.
The military said in a statement that the bodies were discovered on a people-smuggling route in the early hours of Friday after a snowstorm hit the Masnaa area, where Lebanon’s largest official border crossing with Syria is located.
“The army saved six other displaced Syrians, one of whom died later in a hospital from frostbite,” the statement added, raising the death toll to 10.
“The bodies were taken to the hospitals in the area, and the army continues to search for other displaced people trapped in the snow, in order to evacuate them and provide medical treatment for them.”
10 bodies of Syrians were found near the Lebanon-Syria border crossing in Masna'a. 5 refugees were found alive. It appears they died while trying to cross into Lebanon. All countries bordering on Syria have locked their borders to refugees. https://t.co/I7mlmDaSJe via @chehayebk pic.twitter.com/58xxSGYtlE
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) January 19, 2018
The identities of the Syrian refugees were not immediately known. According to some reports, at least one child was found among the bodies.
Two other Syrian nationals were arrested and charged with people-smuggling, the army added.
‘We are deprived of everything’
Temperatures dropped on Friday as winter storms battered the Lebanon-Syria border, making the lives of the more than 357,000 Syrian refugees living in makeshift tents in the Bekaa Valley, some 60km north of Masnaa, even more difficult.
Reporting from the region, Al Jazeera’s correspondent Zeina Khodr said that Syrian refugees “face many challenges during the winter months”.
“They live in tents that are made out of plastic sheeting, which does little to protect them from the cold and the rain,” she said.
Hammadi Chelbi, a Syrian refugee who has been living in Bekaa Valley after he fled the Syrian conflict in its first year, told Al Jazeera that he and his family are living in misery.
“We have nothing but pain, sickness and suffering,” he said. “We are deprived of everything.”
There are one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, although government officials estimate that the number is closer to 1.5 million.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is not getting the money it needs to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon through another harsh winter.
Last year, it requested $228m but received less than 60 percent of that, prompting it to warn that life in the camps was getting worse.