FROSTBITE: The first wave of the major snowstorm sweeping across the Levant hit Lebanon and Syria Tuesday and continued into Jordan Wednesday, with devastating results for Syrian refugees and the internally displaced living in makeshift tents.
The storm – called “Zeina” in Syria and Lebanon and “Huda” in Jordan – was predicted to be one of the largest in recent memory.
Arsal, a city in northern Lebanon near the Syrian border where thousands of Syrians have fled, has been hit especially hard.
The snow in Arsal appears to be at least a foot deep in pictures widely circulated on social media Wednesday, with more predicated to fall later in the day.
Homeless Syrians tried to prepare for the storm, having been hit by a major snowstorm last winter as well.
“The refugees [in Arsal] have been digging ditches around their camps to avoid flooding,” Nemer al-Qasem, a Syrian media activist currently based in northern Lebanon, told Syria Direct on Tuesday before the snow came.
Syrians in Arsal have established an informal network of refugee camps dispersed around the city, many of which are not officially recognized by the Lebanese government.
“The refugees also tried to fasten their tents to the ground, but the high wind speed [reportedly up 100 km/h] defeated their plans. As of [Tuesday], 100 tents had been uprooted,” al-Qasem said.
Compounding the Syrians’ desperation in Arsal is the fact that they cannot obtain gas for heating, the activist said.
“All gas stations ceased accepting UN vouchers for gas, saying that the vouchers are fake…despite being stamped by the UN,” says al-Qasem. The claim could not be independently verified.
The UN and other international humanitarian organizations left Arsal in August 2014, calling it “dangerous.”
“If there is real danger in Arsal, the [UN] should have thought of moving the refugees to a safer place.”
-January 7, 2015
-Photo courtesy of @rabiih.
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