Jerusalem locked down by 'historic' snowstorm
Published Friday 13/12/2013 (updated) 13/12/2013 19:47
Palestinian children play in the snow in front of the Dome of the Rock
at the Al-Aqsa mosques compound in the old city of Jerusalem on
Dec. 12, 2013 (AFP Ahmad Gharabli)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The hilltop city of Jerusalem was paralyzed on Friday by a snowstorm of "historic" proportions, with its mayor calling out the army to help stranded motorists.
"We are battling a storm of rare ferocity," Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement as snow in the Holy City piled up to around 15 inches, while outlying areas had much deeper drifts.
One weather forecaster described the snowstorm as "historic" on public radio.
Temperatures in the city were predicted to reach a high of 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit during Friday and drop below freezing at night, with snowfall that started on Thursday continuing into Saturday.
Schools were closed for a second day and most residents appeared to be heeding advice to stay at home.
Jerusalem municipality said that 540 stranded motorists were given shelter at the city's International Conference Center.
Main roads into the Holy City, which climb around 2600 feet above sea level were closed and police appealed to drivers of private vehicles not to attempt the journey. Many streets in the city were also impassable.
"Only when the storm has eased can we start clearing roadways," Barkat said. "We are at the moment using all means to rescue those caught in the storm."
The Jerusalem Post reported that police had been called out to help around 1400 people in the city and on the roads leading to it by Friday morning.
Ramallah and Bethlehem, Palestinian cities near Jerusalem, were also coated in snow and some lower-lying areas suffered flooding from torrential rain.
UN Relief and Works Agency Spokesperson Chris Gunness said that "UNRWA emergency response teams have been battling the inclement weather to deliver food parcels, blankets, and other supplies in the 19 refugee camps across the West Bank."
"Hardest hit are Tulkarem, Balata, Jalazun and Arrub. Managment is even more determined given winter conditions ... to maintain services as best as we can," he said.
Ma'an staff contributed to this report.