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Lebanonwire, March 26, 2003

The Daily Star

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Rain gnaws at patience, and infrastructure
Snow, landslides, high seas take its toll

T-shirt weather is due next week but, in the meantime, heavy showers and flooding continue to make life difficult

Nayla Assaf
Daily Star staff

With the war raging in Iraq and focusing attention on political, military and humanitarian concerns, one question continues to haunt the Lebanese: “Will the rain ever stop?”
“Usually, at the end of March, we start wearing T-shirts,” said Manal Qassem, an 18-year-old from Beirut. “I can’t take all the rain and cold anymore! Won’t it ever stop? I’m sure something’s wrong with the ecosystem.”
Although spring arrived on calendars on March 21, Tuesday saw snow still falling as low as 650 meters. Villages as low as Ain Saade in the Metn and Aitat in Baabda saw several hours of steady snowfall in the morning, something unseen in March for many years.
Abu Mazen, a 60-year-old grocer from Jnah, said his house had been constantly flooded this year.
“I live by the seafront and every week, the waters invade my home,” he said. “Every time I clean the mess, another wave of rain comes and ruins everything.”
According to the meteorological department at the Beirut International Airport, the capital has seen 923 millimeters of precipitation this winter against 655 in the last, and Tripoli, 1,243 millimeters against 884.
The average level over the whole year for both cities is 825 millimeters, which has already been surpassed.
In Hayy al-Sellom, the Ghadir River has flooded in recent days, leaving nearby fields looking like ponds of mud.
In Gemaizeh, road works have left a 2-meter-deep ditch along the 2 kilometer Mar Mikhael road and residents suffering from the rain.
“Look at the streets ­ they look like a stream of blood,” said resident Elie Kisso.
“This has been going on for over a month. Every time it rains, the mud from the work site gets washed away and the rest of the street becomes flooded with sticky orange water. It’s scared away all our customers.”
The heavy rain has also resulted in a series of accidents on the highway from Jounieh to Harissa.
The rocks, earth and pine trees that fell as a result of a landslide cut off the road for a few hours at two different places.
Civil Defense personnel and members of the Jounieh Municipal Council, however, quickly cleared the road, reopening the path for motorists.
Experts say this wasn’t the first such incident on the road, as the road lacks a proper cement barrier to protect it from similar slides.
In the Bekaa, which was the scene of intensive floods last month, no major accidents were reported. Baalbek, however, was covered in snow.
In Batroun, the heavy rains caused the collapse of part of a mountain near the coastal road, at the Herri tunnel. The dirt and rocks blocked the road, and when Public Works bulldozers cleared up the mess, another collapse caused the road to be blocked for a second time.
The National News Agency said the ministry ordered the huge rocks dynamited to aid the clean-up effort.
Hamat Mayor Mezher Karam demanded a “radical” solution since the nearby mountains were liable to collapse at any moment.
Several parts of Dinnieh were also hit by flooded roads, cracks appearing in homes and buildings, and damage to agricultural areas.
Banana and citrus orchards in Tyre were hit heavily by the Litani River overflowing its banks, as residents asked the Higher Relief Committee to oversee a re-count of earlier storm damage, which had already been conducted.
Also, the Civil Defense maritime rescue team located a fishing boat Tuesday that was reported missing over the weekend after recent storms.
A Civil Defense statement said Tuesday the boat had left the Dora port Saturday with three fishermen on board, Ospar Garmonian, Mohammed Ali Jaber, and Syrian national Walid Khawand. The fishermen were found battling the waves off the Halat coast. The boat and its crew were towed to the Halat Sur Mer beach resort, where they received first aid treatment.
On the brighter side, the rain is expected to stop by Wednesday afternoon, with temperatures rising as of Thursday.
Next week ­ if the forecast doesn’t change by then ­ is expected to be entirely sunny.
In Bsharri, mountain roads were only accessible for vehicles with chains, and steady snowfall caused damage to plant nurseries and some crops, and a number of landslides occurred in mountainous areas like Diman, Wadi Qannoubine, Kfar Sghab and Hadsheet.

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