BEIRUT: Cars are swimming, roofs are collapsing, and homes are flooding in the Beqaa Valley, where the storm has struck residents hard. Syrian refugee communities in Bar Elias, the lowest point in the area, are suffering from the lack of infrastructure and facing yet another wave of displacement, while locals are scrambling to vacate the affected camps.
According to UNHCR Lebanon, 8,000 people are already affected by the storm, “66 informal settlements were heavily impacted by the flooding, 15 of which have been completely flooded or collapsed. Around 300 people have been relocated so far in the North and the Beqaa.” The UNHCR declared ongoing efforts to pump out excess water flooding refugee camps.
Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Asi ordered the temporary transfer of those displaced because of the storm to URDA camp in Bar Elias.
The building up of snow, harsh wind and rain since Monday has had devastating effects on those living in the Beqaa. Tents in Arsal are covered in thick layers of snow and prone to collapse. Flooding of the Litani river caused heavy damage to adjacent tent settlements, where hundreds of refugee families have been living for eight years.
Local and international NGOs, benevolent individuals and public and private institutions operating in the area are working hastily to get displaced families safe and warm.
Nader M. Alsayed from Huroof Educational Center sent a viral message declaring the opening of his educational center in Bar Elias to accommodate temporary housing for families until the storm subsides, and after victims have fixed what was damaged by the storm.
According to Rouba Mhaissen, founder of Sawa for Development and Aid, “people haven’t eaten for days and still days to come.” House of Peace has prepared meals to be distributed among affected families.
Many of the victims of the natural disaster are children and women who have been left widowed because of the war. Omar, an aid worker at Sawa, told Annahar that several Lebanese families residing in Bar Elias have been personally taking in Syrian refugees whose homes have been destroyed.
Religious institutions have also contributed to relief. Al Firdaus mosque opened its doors to shelter up to 150 individuals and a local church donated 50 blankets and 70 mattresses to shelters accommodating victims.
International humanitarian NGO Medair has set up a hotline with the purpose of rescuing those affected by the storm.
NGOs such as Sawa, Basma and Zaytuna and Basamat have been scrambling to evacuate victims from their flooded tents to shelter centers. Women Now have also opened their two centers in Chtaura and Majdal Anjar to welcome families affected by the storm.
Governor of Mount Lebanon Mohammad al-Mekkawi called for the closing of roads connecting Mount Lebanon to the Beqaa, Dahr al Baydar, and Tarshish Zahle, as of Tuesday afternoon.
Weather is predicted calm Thursday thru Saturday with a multi-day spate of rain starting again on Sunday thru to Wednesday.
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