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Thousands of Syrian refugees hit by extreme storm in Lebanon

Jan. 10, 2019 2:33 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 13, 2019 12:14 P.M.)
BEIRUT (Ma'an) -- A wave of snow and heavy rain hit parts of Lebanon, destroying several camps housing Syrian refugees and have left thousands in need of emergency assistance.

Storm Norma, which began on Saturday hit Lebanon with heavy rains, snowfall and freezing temperatures, leaving at least 66 camps heavily impacted.

Some of the worst affected were the refugees living in Arsal, a mountainous border area in northern Lebanon, where the roofs of shacks caved under the weight of the snow.

Schools closed across Lebanon, roads were cut off by flooding and pools of water formed in Beirut, causing traffic chaos across the city.

Social media users shared images from the refugee camps, highlighting the alarming conditions and raising awareness on the situation.

Lebanon’s Daily Star news outlet reported that the Lebanese Red Cross has rescued more than 500 people from Akkar’s Semmaqieh refugee camp after their tents filled with flood water.

In Lebanon, more than 951,000 Syrians are registered as refugees with the UN, though the government estimates the real number to be much higher.

Lebanon hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees which fled from war in Syria in 2011 and have since lived in makeshift tents and settlements that have little or no infrastructure.

The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said emergency measures had been put in place to rescue stranded families and help those suffering from the cold.

UNHCR spokesperson, Lisa Abu Khaled, said “Across Lebanon, at least 66 informal settlements have been found heavily impacted by the flooding, 15 of which have completely flooded or collapsed.”

UNHCR and its partners were distributing relief items such as new tents, blankets, mattresses and drainage kits.

Abu Khaled confirmed that “UNHCR and partners estimate that approximately 850 informal settlements, hosting 50,000 refugees, are at risk of flooding.”

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