Middle East countries hit by storms

  • Published
Media caption,

Heavy rains, strong winds and snow have been causing disruption in the Middle East

Fierce winds and heavy rain and snow have lashed eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries for a second successive day.

The storms have sunk a ship off the Israeli coast, closed ports and disrupted shipping in the Suez Canal.

Flights have also been delayed to and from many airports in the region.

The storms have ended a long drought in Lebanon, Syria and Israel and come just a week after more than 40 people died in a forest fire.

A Moldova-registered cargo ship sank off the Israeli port of Ashdod. All of its 11 crew members were rescued.

A woman died when an uprooted tree fell on her car in Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli.

Giant waves

Shipping has been delayed through the Suez Canal and most Egyptian ports, both on the Red Sea and the Mediterranean - including the country's largest at Alexandria - have closed, with winds reaching speeds of up to 60km/h (37mph).

Image caption,
The fishing industry and shipping have been badly disrupted across the region

At least three people died when a factory collapsed in Alexandria, although officials denied earlier reports that it was in part related to the heavy rain.

Waves of up to 10m (33ft) battered coasts, damaging fishing boats in Lebanon. In Syria, snow blanketed the streets of the capital, Damascus, and closed roads.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in the Egyptian capital Cairo, says there are strong, cold winds in the city and the murky yellow sky of a sand storm.

He says the storms, which caused temperatures to plunge to below freezing in some places, have ended weeks of unseasonably warm and dry weather across the region.

Last week a devastating forest fire, fanned by drought and hot weather, killed more than 40 people near Israel's northern port city of Haifa. Thousands of hectares of forest were destroyed there and in Lebanon by fires.