Last updated: 8 January, 2013

Torrential rains hit desert Jordan, as floods sweep Mideast

Extreme weather, including torrential rains and heavy winds, killed four people in Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday, as widespread flooding swept the Middle East.

A man was killed and two others injured after their car was swept away by heavy rain in the West Bank town of Attil.

Another three people died in the early hours of the morning after their car was blown to the side of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and dozens were injured in weather-related accidents across Israel.

In northern Jordan, relief workers distributing aid to Syrian refugees were injured in a “stampede” in a camp where hundreds of tents have been destroyed by heavy rains.

Snowfall made roads unusable in the Syrian capital, and floods forced roads and schools to shut in Lebanon, while Egyptian authorities closed the port of Alexandria for a third straight day due to severe winds.

Israeli army helicopters rescued six Israeli Arabs from the roof of their car in Taibeh, and another 15 were evacuated in the same manner from the roof of their flooded home in Baqa al-Gharbia.

Medical officials said they were being treated for hypothermia.

Jerusalem braced for possible snowfall Wednesday and Thursday and Israel’s met office said this winter was set to be the wettest in a decade.

In Jordan, torrential rains swept through the country for a second straight day, forcing the closure of most road tunnels and gridlocking traffic, as flash floods overwhelmed the capital’s drainage system.

Elsewhere, refugees at the Zaatari camp on the border with Syria “started to push each other as they ran towards aid workers. They hurled stones at each other and there was a stampede” that injured several workers, Anmar Hmud, a government spokesman, told AFP.

“At least one of the aid workers was taken to hospital,” he added.

The incident occurred as aid workers were helping some of the 62,000 Syrians sheltering in the camp, where two days of heavy rains have destroyed hundreds of tents.

Syria’s met office predicted abundant rainfall for the next two days, as heavy rains and wind hit several parts of the country, and a buildup of snowfall in Damascus made some roads unusable, the interior ministry said.

In neighbouring Lebanon, a day after a six-month-old baby was swept away when a flash flood hit a Bedouin encampment, storms continued across the country.

Roads in Beirut were flooded and schools were closed nationwide on Tuesday and will also be on Wednesday.

The Damascus-Beirut road was forced to shut and rains caused widespread damage to farmland.

“Lebanon hasn’t seen a storm like this in a dozen years,” said Abdel Karim Damaj, a weather expert at Beirut’s international airport.

Egypt closed the port of Alexandria for a third day in a row as a precaution, as high winds battered the Mediterranean city after torrential rains caused power cuts.

Further west, 10 fishermen were reported missing off the coast of the desert town of Marsa Matruh, and searches to find them were being hampered by the weather conditions, local media reported.