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Storm lashes Middle East, sinks ship

Associated Press / December 13, 2010

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BEIRUT — Heavy rains and fierce winds pummeled countries across the Middle East over the weekend, sinking a ship off Israel’s coast, and killing a woman in Lebanon whose car was crushed when a tree fell on it.

The storm brought unusually cold temperatures, below freezing in some spots. It ended weeks of unseasonably warm and dry weather that contributed to dozens of forest fires in Lebanon and helped feed a massive blaze in Israel that destroyed thousands of acres of forest.

It whipped up sandstorms in Jordan and Egypt, which closed its largest Mediterranean port. In Syria, snow blanketed the streets of Damascus for the first time this winter. Schools sent students home early, and children ventured outside to play in the streets.

Syrian authorities closed their main port of Tartous. In Egypt, 12-foot waves forced shut the port of Alexandria as well as another in the town of Nuweiba along the Red Sea coast of the Sinai Peninsula.

Heavy rains flooded the streets in Beirut and snow forced road closures in remote mountain towns in Lebanon. A woman died Saturday night when an uprooted tree fell on her car in Tripoli, authorities said. Flights in and out of Beirut’s international airport were delayed.

Off the Israeli coast, a Moldovan cargo ship sank in stormy weather about seven miles off the port city of Ashdod.

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