Syrian Refugees Struggling to Stay Warm as Storm Batters Lebanonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A Syrian man and a six-year-old boy died in the cold as a major storm dumped snow and rain on Lebanon, bringing misery to thousands of Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps throughout the country.
"We have transported the bodies of two Syrians, a man and a six-year-old boy, who were found dead in Ain al-Joz in the mountains of Shebaa" in south Lebanon, a Red Cross source told Agence France Presse.
State-run National News Agency reported a third person had died in the mountains apparently of exposure, but there was no immediate confirmation as a Red Cross source said heavy snow was hampering search operations.
A security source said the dead were Syrian refugees and had been crossing the mountainous border between Syria and Lebanon in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
There were no immediate details on whether the man and child were related.
The security source said the man was 35 years old.
Many Syrians were trapped in their tents by the heavy rain and snow, struggling to stay warm in temperatures hovering around zero degrees.
The U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR distributed cash and fuel coupons to more than 80,000 refugee families ahead of the storm, which forced the closure of all Lebanese ports and briefly shut Beirut's international airport.
It warned however that "serious gaps" remained in provisions for the Syrian refugees during the storm.
In Majdalun, close to the eastern town of Baalbek, around 40 tents were cut off from others by a thick layer of snow, an AFP photographer said.
"There is a lack of food and heating materials," said one man who had left his tent.
"We ask charities to intervene. We are scared that the tents will collapse under the weight of the snow."
Heavy snowfall also cut several roads in mountainous areas of Lebanon, where more than a million Syrians fleeing civil war have claimed refuge in recent years.
In Hawsh al-Umara, close to the town of Zahle, refugees tried to remove the thick layer of snow carpeting their tents.
"We barely managed to walk in the snow to look for fuel," said one young man.
"I've been a refugee here for two years but this is the worst winter I've seen," said Mohammed al-Hussein, who lives in a camp with his wife and five children.
"We feel humiliated," he added.
More than 1.1 million Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Lebanon since March 2011, when the conflict in their country began.
The influx has tested Lebanon's limited resources, and this week the government began imposing unprecedented visa restrictions on Syrians in a bid to stem the number of arrivals.