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One missing as Israel hit by storm, heavy winds

Dec. 11, 2010 4:04 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 12, 2010 1:17 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Heavy winds lashed Israel on Saturday, knocking down power lines and trees and sweeping one person into the sea as the country was hit by its first storm of the winter.

In the coastal city of Netanya, a 41-year-old Russian tourist was blown off the promenade into the sea and was missing and feared dead, public radio reported.

Police were unable to search for the missing man because of the stormy seas, whipped up by winds in excess of 100 kilometers an hour, the radio said.

The winds knocked down power lines and trees, causing power cuts across the country, said the state-run Electricity Company, which also urged the public to tie down loose objects that could be blown away and damage power lines.

Also on Saturday, the Parks Authority shut several nature reserves in the southern Negev desert because of the possibility of flash floods.

The storm brings the first rains of the winter about two months late and comes after a long period of drought.

The drought was one of the main factors blamed for last week's devastating forest fire that killed 43 people, destroying hundreds of homes and millions of trees near the port city of Haifa in northern Israel.
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