BEIRUT: Lebanese people experienced terror on Thursday night when a severe storm ravaged mountain and coastal regions, uprooted trees, caused floods and destroyed cars, refugee tents and public statues.
Several flights were diverted to Larnaca and Antalya airports after strong winds made landings at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport impossible.
The frightening weather conditions came on top of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Social media users described their experience as they stayed at home in line with the government’s directives aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. “Lebanon is flying” was the second most trending hashtag after “Stay home”. Users switched from mocking the situation to sensing its gravity.
“Here comes nature’s wrath after the unemployment, dollar, Eurobonds, banks and imported coronavirus crises. The night of strong easterly winds uprooted trees, damaged buildings and affected people. Disasters, disasters and the greatest disaster of all is the dark horizons. May God protect what is left of Lebanon,” tweeted former minister, Akram Chehayeb.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has exceeded 80, and includes an employee of the Ministry of Health.
“The infected employee works in the Ministry’s central administration. The virus was transmitted to her by one of her relatives,” the Ministry of Health announced, noting that “we are taking all the necessary measures to isolate her, identify those who were in contact with her inside and outside of the Ministry and make sure they self-quarantine at home.”
“A civil or public health emergency might be announced. The people should expect an increase of 20 cases in a single day in Lebanon,” said the Health Minister, Hamad Hassan. He denied the claims that the Ministry is concealing the actual number of cases.
60 hospital beds have been prepared at Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH), which is dedicated to coronavirus-infected patients, to handle the expected increase in cases.
The head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, blamed the government for the worsening situation, noting that “the government should adopt a so-called ‘automatic quarantine’ after failing to close air, land and sea crossings and take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced that banks will be closed for sterilization from Saturday, while the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Tarek Al-Majzoub, extended the closure of schools and universities for an additional week. This decision will be accompanied by efforts to set up emergency programs to finish the educational curricula and make up for the lost lessons. Worshipers stayed away from Friday prayers out of fear of transmission.
The storm caused great damage as it uprooted pine and oak trees along the roads of Mount Lebanon, broke the windows of homes and shops, destroyed parked cars, flooded roads, sent bricks flying from the roofs of houses and caused a power cut when some electricity poles fell, which also disconnected cellphone lines in the affected areas.
The 120 kilometers per hour winds destroyed highway billboards and crops, which doubled the losses of farmers who are already struggling.
Some post-storm tweets considered that Friday the 13th and the destruction of a statue of Mary in the storm were very bad signs.