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Powerful winter storm brings snow, havoc to Mideast, leaving 8 dead

Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images

The city of Istanbul is covered with snow on Jan. 9, after a storm blanketed Turkey's commercial hub, a city of 15 million, paralyzing daily life, disrupting air traffic and land transport.

Ammar Awad / Reuters

Palestinians play with snow during a snow storm in the West Bank village of Halhul near Hebron on Jan. 9. At least 8 people have died due to a winter storm in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Meteorological agencies in Israel and Lebanon both called it the worst storm in 20 years.


A man walks on snow after a heavy snowstorm in the desert near Tabuk, 932 miles from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Jan. 9.

By Barbara Surk, Jamal Halaby, The Associated Press -- The fiercest winter storm to hit the Mideast in years brought a rare foot of snow to Jordan on Wednesday, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people died across the region.

In Lebanon, the Red Cross said storm-related accidents killed six people over the past two days. Several drowned after slipping into rivers from flooded roads, one person froze to death and another died after his car went off a slippery road, according to George Kettaneh, Operations Director for the Lebanese Red Cross.

The unusual weather over the past few days hit vulnerable Syrian refugees living in tent camps very hard, particularly some 50,000 sheltering in the Zaatari camp in Jordan's northern desert. Torrential rains over four days have flooded some 200 tents and forced women and infants to evacuate in temperatures that dipped below freezing at night, whipping wind and lashing rain.

"It's been freezing cold and constant rain for the past four days," lamented Ahmad Tobara, 44, who evacuated his tent when its shafts submerged in flood water in Zaatari. A camp spokesman said that by Wednesday, some 1,500 refugees had been displaced within the camp and were now living in mobile homes normally used for schools.

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AFP - Getty Images

A visitor climbs the steps of Baalbek's Bachus temple as snow covers the Roman ruins of the historic town in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Jan. 9, following a fierce storm which has whipped the region this week with temperatures dropping dramatically and snow falling on across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

Said Khatib / AFP - Getty Images

A Palestinian man uses his donkey cart to transport people across a flooded street in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jan. 9.

Afif Diab / Reuters

Syrian refugees play with snow outside their tents during a winter storm in al-Marj, in the Bekaa valley on Jan. 9. The worst winter storm in two decades has hit the eastern Mediterranean this week, bringing destruction and death to Syria and its neighbors who are already dealing with a refugee crisis from the country's civil war.

Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images

A seagull stands on Galata Tower on Jan. 9. Heavy snowfall blanketed Turkey's commercial hub Istanbul, a city of 15 millions, paralyzing daily life, disrupting air traffic and land transport.