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Snow Storm Hits Middle East, Millions of Refugees in Critical Situation

January 8, 2015 


Syrian refugee camps in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, January 7, 2015 Syrian refugee camps in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, January 7, 2015
A Palestinian refugee child in the West Bank, January 8, 2015 Palestinian refugee children in Gaza, January 8, 2015

As storm hits Mideast, refugees bear brunt

BEIRUT Wed Jan 7, 2015 4:21pm EST

(Reuters) -

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, program 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 canceled dozens of flights between Turkey's biggest cities and to several international destinations. Budget airline Pegasus also canceled 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.

(Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in the Gaza Strip, Noah Browning in Ramallah, Ceyda Caglayan in Istanbul and Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Marwan Makdesi in Damascus; Writing by Tom Perry)

Storm "Huda" Arrives in the Holy Land

Thursday January 08, 2015 03:38 by IMEMC News & Agencies

Millions of Palestinians bunkered down at home, this Wednesday, as they faced down the first day of a huge winter storm which has brought a mixture of rain, hail and snow, accompanied by heavy winds crashing into the region this week.

According to Ma'an News Agency, Palestinian authorities have announced that all official business will be closed Thursday because of the storm, nicknamed "Huda" in Palestine and Jordan and "Zina" in Lebanon. Officials have urged people to take safety measures in the coming days.

The storm is expected to last until Sunday, bringing snow in higher areas around Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron in the occupied West Bank as well as in northern Israel, while flooding is expected along the coastal plain, including in the Gaza Strip.

Temperatures in the West Bank are expected to hover around freezing both day and night, over the next week.

Already in some areas across the region temporary electricity cuts have been reported, but many fear the worst is yet to come.

Energy Authority: Rate of Gaza power deficit hits 70%

January 8, 2015


The rate of Gaza’s electricity deficit has reached 70% due to frequent outages in the Israeli-run power lines and networks, the Energy Authority in the blockaded Strip said Wednesday.

The Energy Authority said in a statement that ten power lines running from Israel to Gaza supply about 120MW while Gaza’s power plant and the Egyptian power lines provide around 27 MW each.

The deficit level has hit 70%, the statement reported, warning of the power blackouts rocking the besieged enclave and amounting to 12 hours per day.

Some 959 liters of fuel reserves, estimated at 7 million shekels paid on two batches, have been purchased by Gaza’s authorities last Thursday, the statement added, pointing out the acute shortages in the fuel quantities needed to operate the two electricity generators.

The Energy Authority warned of the serious repercussions of the crisis particularly with the advent of a freezing winter and the torrents of heavy rains and snowstorms rocking Palestine.

The situation has gone from bad to worse due to the low temperatures, estimated below seasonal norms, which have brought consumption needs to two or three times as much as the enclave’s habitual requirements.

The Energy Authority has been working in collaboration with Gaza’s Electricity Distribution Company to repair any unexpected breakdowns and manage the power-supply schedules in the very best and even way possible.  


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