Middle East

Storm proves deadly in Israel, Palestine

A man sits on top of his car while stuck in a flooded road near the Israeli-Arab town of Kfar Qara.

AMMAN/ISTANBUL/ OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Extreme weather, including torrential rains and heavy winds, killed four people in Israel and Palestine Tuesday, as flooding occurred across the Middle East.

A man was killed and two others injured after their car was swept away by heavy rain in Attil, West Bank.

Another three people died in the early hours of the morning after their car was blown to the side of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, while dozens were injured in weather-related accidents across Israel.

Stormy conditions swept through Jordan for a second day straight, sparking widespread flooding and traffic chaos but bringing welcome water to reservoirs in one of the world’s 10 driest countries.

The main road between Amman and the northern city of Zarqa was closed as sections were swamped by up to a meter of water.

In Jordan’s capital, flash floods overwhelmed the drainage system and most traffic underpasses and tunnels were closed.

The city council and water utility traded blame for the resulting traffic gridlock, while the government came under fire in the media.

“Instead of bragging how Amman is one of the most beautiful cities in the Arab world, the government should fix the capital’s streets and drainage system first,” wrote columnist Ibrahim Khreisat on the website of the independent daily Al-Arab al-Yawm.

But in a kingdom that is 92 percent desert and which suffers from a chronic shortage of water, the rains added 62 million cubic meters to reservoirs in just 48 hours, the Jordan Valley Authority said.

Storms wreaked havoc in Turkey, reducing visibility in the country’s Bosphorus Strait and forcing maritime authorities to shut a key shipping channel Tuesday, said shipping agent GAC.

Traffic for all northbound and southbound vessels was suspended at 11:45 a.m. because of the poor visibility, GAC wrote in an email.

The snowstorm prompted flagship carrier Turkish Airlines to cancel 76 flights scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, after dozens of canceled flights Monday, also due to weather.

The Dardanelles, which remained open, and the Bosphorus are the only maritime outlets for oil, grain and other commodities from Russia and Black Sea countries.

Fears of possible snowfall loomed over Jerusalem overnight Wednesday, as temperatures dropped and heavy rain continued.

Israeli army helicopters rescued six Israeli Arabs from the roof of their car in Taibeh and another 15 were evacuated in the same manner from the roof of their flooded home in Baqa al-Gharbia.

Tel Aviv’s main transport artery reopened Tuesday evening after being closed due to flooding since the morning, causing large traffic jams. Electricity outages caused by downed power lines were reported throughout Israel.

Streets were flooded in many West Bank cities and the PA ordered schools to take Wednesday and Thursday off.

Egypt closed the port of Alexandria for the third day in a row as a precaution, as high winds battered the Mediterranean city after torrential rains caused power cuts.

Further west, 10 fishermen were reported missing off the coast of the desert town of Marsa Matruh, with rescue searches hampered by the weather conditions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 09, 2013, on page 9.




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