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Environment

Three die in Egypt as storms lash east Mediterranean

media Snow-covered Mount Qassioun overlooking Damascus Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

At least three Egyptians have died, ports have been closed and traffic on the Suez Canal disrupted as storms lashed the Middle East for a second day. Winds, rain and hail battered the eastern Mediterranean on Sunday, as a months-long drought came to a sudden, drastic end.

In Egypt at least three people died when a factory collapse in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, officials said. Five people were seriously injured, they say, blaming the accident "on bad weather and heavy rains."

Twenty-six ships were barred from entering the Suez Canal and 29 vessels delayed for three hours. The waterway was hit by poor visibility and winds of up to 40 knots an hour, said an official at the canal, which is Egypt's third-largest source of foreign revenue after tourism and remittances from expatriate workers.

Red Sea and Mediterranean ports were closed for a second day on Sunday, while an Italian container ship, Jolly Amaranto, was stranded off the north-western coast after its engines broke down.

Visibility at Cairo airport was reduced to 300 metres.

As a long drought that affected the region came to an end, temperatures plummeted and storms hit Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel:

  • In Lebanon seaside roads and ports have been closed after a 45-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree hitting her car – the year’s first snowstorm hit the country’s mountains;
  • Off Israel a Moldovan freighter went down near the port of Ashdod but its crew of 11 Ukrainians was rescued.
  • Syria’s capital Damascus was hit by snowstorms;
  • Jordan suffered sandstorms and was braced for heavy rain and snow, which could lead to flooding.

Forecasters expect the bad weather to continue on Monday and have advised people to stay indoors due to a sandstorm that has blanketed the Egyptian capital.
 

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