Lebanon News

Lebanon blizzard blocks mountain roads; schools shut

BEIRUT: Snow continued to fall on mountainous areas across Lebanon Friday, blocking roads, closing schools and leaving thousands stranded in their homes.

Dozens of villages in the eastern, northern and southern parts of the country were cut off by Storm "Windy."

Schools across Lebanon abided by Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s order to close down Friday and Saturday. Bou Saab released a statement Friday afternoon warning schools against opening the next day, threatening to prosecute those who disobeyed his order.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour also warned all nurseries to close Saturday.

Snow fell at elevations as low as 300 meters, an official at the meteorological department at Beirut airport told The Daily Star.

Most roads in areas at elevations of 1000 meters and above were blocked by thick layers of snow. The Civil Defense's snowplowing efforts were hindered by the heavy snowfall, which remained constant nearly all day.

River levels also rose following heavy rains, mainly in the north and Mount Lebanon, resulting in massive floods that caused several roads to collapse.

Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter had called on snowplow centers and parties responsible for drainage networks to be prepared in case of emergencies.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it increased its emergency response units to 400 paramedics and 100 ambulances, including 60 four-wheel drive vehicles.

Civil Defense teams rescued 10 pedestrians after snow trapped them on the Dahr al-Baidar highway.

Civil Defense chief Raymond Khattar said rescue workers also saved a driver after a mudslide forced his pickup truck to plunge into a quarry in Antelias, north of Beirut.

The meteorological department said Windy, which blew over from the Arctic, will start fading away by Friday evening, but will continue over south Lebanon until mid-day Saturday.

Weather experts have warned of a substantial risk of icy conditions.

Saturday’s weather is predicted to be partly cloudy with scattered rain. Intermittent snow showers are also expected in the morning, particularly in south Lebanon.

“We will have nice weather Sunday,” a source at the meteorological department said.

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