BEIRUT: A storm that crippled large parts of Lebanon for four days subsided Friday, allowing schools to reopen and many Lebanese to get back to work and normal activities.
Pupils packed school buses, adding to morning traffic, after being off for three days due to the rare winter storm from Russia called “Olga.”
While most schools opened their doors to students, many of those located in remote areas in the north, east and south of the country remained closed due to lingering snow.
Education Minister Hassan Diab urged school principals to make up for the days the students missed.
Despite the low temperatures, residents, many who’d heeded the call to remain indoors, ventured out Friday to sunny skies after days of storm battered the country.
Normal levels of road congestion also predominated in the morning hours as people returned to work.
Heavy rains have damaged crops, properties and electricity infrastructure.
State and local municipalities began assessing Friday the extent of damage caused by the storm, which began in earnest Monday.
A ministerial delegation, including the country’s health and agriculture ministers, headed to the southern Beirut suburb of Hay al-Sellom, one of the worst hit areas after the Ghadir River there broke its banks, where illegal houses had been built. Many families were forced to evacuate as muddy water from the river slammed into their homes.
The Cabinet has allocated funds to storm victims.
The blizzard covered much of Lebanon with white Thursday with a record low 4 degrees Celsius temperature on the coast.
It also dumped 50 centimeters of snow on towns off the northern coast at altitudes of 800 meters and 60 centimeters on the eastern town of Hermel, about 600 meters above sea level.
A thin layer of snow even settled over the Lebanese coast in the north and south, early Thursday.
Many residents and motorists coped with the winter weather by avoiding unnecessary travel on hilly roads and highways.
All mountainous roads at 1,200 meters and above remained closed to traffic Friday due to snow and ice.
Snowplows are continuing efforts to clear the roads.
Dahr al-Baidar road, part of the main Beirut-Damascus highway, was reopened to traffic Friday morning.
However, drivers were asked to comply with tire-chains requirements when traveling on roads at or above 800 meters.
Crews worked Friday to grit and clear snow from several roads to isolated villages in north, east, and south Lebanon. They managed to reopen some of the roads.
A fierce blizzard Thursday trapped villagers in the Bekaa town of Yammouneh, east of Baalbek, as well as those living on the outskirts of Tfeil and surrounding villages. Several other villages in the highlands north and south of the country were also cut off by snow.
Hezbollah said in a statement Friday that bulldozers it owns reopened roads at the Hasbaya towns of Kfar Shuba, Arqoub, Kfar Hammam and Hebbarieh that were blocked by snow.
Offices and businesses in east Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley are expected to reopen by midday.
In south Lebanon, the main ports of Sidon and Tyre resumed normal operations Friday after being closed for four days.
Two ships entered Sidon port, one carrying cars and another vessel is expected to arrive in Tyre later Friday.
A vessel carrying diesel oil also managed to dock into Zahrani port, also in south Lebanon, early Friday.
Fishermen also took to the sea, hauling garbage caused by the storm instead of fish.
Boats were seen at the Sidon port unloading their catch of trash.