Le­banon win­ter storm bat­ters refugee tents

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

AT A makeshift camp in the Le­banese town of Ar­sal, refugees are burn­ing their clothes try­ing to ward off the harsh cold as storms flood their tents.

“We have no fuel at all. Peo­ple are tear­ing up clothes, burn­ing plas­tic, what­ever they can find to get warm,” Ab­dal­lah Mokdeh said in the bor­der town. “This is the worst we’ve seen in years.” Since 2011, more than a mil­lion Syr­i­ans have fled the war at home to Le­banon, where aid agen­cies say most live in se­vere poverty. Tens of thou­sands are in Ar­sal near the hills at the bor­der with Syria.

“The roads are blocked. We called an am­bu­lance and it did not come,” said Mr Mokdeh, a refugee who acts as a care­taker for the rows of tents pitched closely to­gether on a patch of earth.

Floods ru­ined mat­tresses and de­stroyed tents, forc­ing some peo­ple to move in with their neigh­bours. Many were sick or el­derly. Some tents al­ready housed three fam­i­lies, he said. “The snow, the cold have no mercy.” Mah­moud Hak­ouk, a 60-year-old Syr­ian man at the same site, has strug­gled to stay dry. “I need a blan­ket,” he said, shiv­er­ing. “I swear to God I don’t have enough to buy bread.”

The UN refugee agency said high winds, rain and snow had “heav­ily im­pacted” more than 150 in­for­mal set­tle­ments, in­clud­ing some that were fully flooded or col­lapsed. A child was re­ported miss­ing, it said on Wed­nes­day.

The heavy storm in­un­dated hun­dreds of tented set­tle­ments across Le­banon and left young­sters stranded in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, char­ity Save the Chil­dren said.

“It’s mis­er­able here, we have tents that col­lapsed be­cause of the in­tense wind,” said Rad­wan Raad, stand­ing in the snow at an­other ram­shackle camp in Ar­sal.

Many of the camp’s res­i­dents did not re­ceive UN aid and could not af­ford food ev­ery day, he added.

Helem Amer, 85, wrapped her­self in a blan­ket in her flimsy shel­ter at that camp. “I can’t get up on my own, there’s no fuel, noth­ing, no­body to help.”

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