Harsh weather causes flooding, strands motorists

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Heavy rain propelled by strong wind caused flooding on roads across Lebanon Friday, leading to traffic jams and stranding motorists.

The Interior Ministry announced a security and traffic plan for the upcoming holiday week to maintain safety and order on the roads.

Following two days of heavy rain, the weather did not show any signs of improvement as snow continued to fall at 1,100 meters above sea level.

Most of the country’s mountain peaks are now covered, and up to a half meter of snow blocked roads in many of the mountainous areas of north Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

Snowfall blocked the Maaraboun road east of Baalbek and isolated Tufeil, a nearby border village.

Although the weather was clear in Beirut and Mount Lebanon in the morning, heavy rain lashed most parts of the country, as the heavy downpours forced the ports of Sidon and Tyre in southern Lebanon to remain closed for the second straight day.

Friday’s storms were not as severe as the previous day’s, and they caused damage only to a few greenhouses along the southern coast.

Rainwater caused landslides overnight Thursday that briefly blocked the Rmeileh highway linking Beirut to Sidon. It took workers from the Rmeileh Municipality and government ministries nearly four hours to clear the highway, which reopened at 2 a.m. Friday morning. Landslides were also reported in Jezzine.

In Tripoli, traffic was choked along the Minyeh-Abdeh road due to flooding.

The Lebanese Army rescued eight Lebanese stranded in three cars in Bsharri’s Qornet Sawda region Thursday night and a number of other people in Tyre’s Ras al-Ain.

Civil Defense volunteers rescued commuters stranded in their vehicles due to flooding in several parts of the country, including more than a dozen locations in Greater Beirut.

The Army said that weather-stranded commuters should call the Army’s hotline at 1701.

In Rashaya, floodwaters reached a few houses, but no serious damage was reported. Strong winds Thursday knocked down power lines in several villages in the south. The National News Agency reported that maintenance teams from Electricite du Liban in Tyre were repairing the damage. For his part, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said several measures would be taken in coordination with the Army, police, General Security and State Security to organize traffic, and maintain security and order throughout Lebanon during the upcoming holidays.

He also announced the establishment of a joint operation center to oversee the efficient implementation of the measures, particularly in the Beirut area. Municipality police are expected to take part in the operations.

“The plan includes patrols in partnership with Civil Defense and the Lebanese Red Cross in coordination with the Traffic Control Room,” Charbel’s press office quoted him as saying. He added that protection for churches and tourism-related venues as well as restaurants in Lebanon would be provided.

Charbel also issued a decision prohibiting trucks to drive on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for the sake of general safety.

Vehicles belonging to the military, municipalities, Civil Defense and the Lebanese and International Red Cross are exempt. Fuel trucks belonging to Rafik Hariri International Airport, media vehicles, refrigerator trucks and vehicles transporting musical equipment for events are also exempt.

Asked about the heavy holiday traffic, Charbel said police should not be held responsible for the congestion as many factors unrelated to their work – including road conditions, construction and flooding – were responsible.

The Meteorology Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport said they expected the storms to subside beginning Saturday afternoon.

According to officials at the airport, the weather Sunday is forecast to be cloudy, but warmer.

 

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