Huge storm hits East Mediterranean

Deaths as rain, snow and high winds lash Eastern Mediterranean, bringing months of drought to a dramatic end.

    Fishing boats were damaged in Lebanon as the storm smashed into the country's coastline, killing one person [AFP]

    An enormous storm has battered the eastern Mediterranean over the weekend, causing destruction in several countries and bringing to a dramatic end months of drought. 

    Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt were all hit by severe weather, with lashing rain, hail, snow and standstorms wreaking havoc across the region.

    In Lebanon, 10 metre waves smashed into the coastline as wind speeds topped 100 kilometres an hour on Saturday. A woman was killed when her car was crushed in the northern city of Tripoli, and four small planes were flipped over at Beirut's airport.

    By Sunday, the rain had turned to snow in the country's mountains, leaving drivers stranded on frozen roads. Meanwhile coastal roads were closed as fishing boats were smashed to pieces by enormous waves.
     
    In Israel, a Moldovan freighter sank in the storm off the coast of Ashdod after its 11 crew members were rescued, and a Russian tourist was feared dead after being swept into the sea.

    The storm comes just a week after a devastating forest fire killed 43 people near the northern city of Haifa.

    In Egypt, temperatures plummeted as huge sandstorms blew up, compounding problems caused by high winds and lashing rain in coastal areas.

    The weather disrupted shipping in the Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, and local media reported three deaths in a factory collapse in Alexandria.

    Five people were also seriously injured in the collapse of the textile factory, a security official said blaming the accident "on bad weather and heavy rains."

    "It has been raining steadily and very hard since yesterday (Saturday) in Alexandria. The building is 30 years old and the foundations could have been damaged," a security official said.

    Jordan was also engulfed by sandstorms, and was braced for heavy rains expected later on Sunday, while in Syria, the capital Damascus was hit by a violent snow-storm.

    The eastern Mediterranean region had been suffering from a crippling drought and unseasonably high temperatures for months, and in recent weeks people have been praying for rain as the land became dangeorusly parched. 

    Meteorologists said the bad weather was expected to last through Monday and have advised people to stay indoors.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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