Unseasonable weather warms Europe, freezes eastern Mediterranean | News | DW | 10.01.2015
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Unseasonable weather warms Europe, freezes eastern Mediterranean

Unusually warm storms sweeping Europe have spoilt winter sports, caused flooding and stalled the arrival of the world's largest container ship. But Syrian refugees are shivering along the eastern Mediterranean.

Europe's unseasonably warm storms Elon followed by Felix halted skiing on many slopes below 900 meters (2952 feet) on Saturday. At Bad Kleinkirchen in Austria, organizers canceled a women's World Cup downhill race for the day.

British coastguards said they were unsuccessful in their search for two men who went missing, apparently while trying to swim in rough seas, off Brighton Pier on Friday evening. Two other young men made it back to shore and raised the alarm.

Storm alerts were issued late on Saturday for the Shetland Islands, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England.

Giant container ship kept off shore

As a storm precaution, the world's largest container ship, Globe, was kept at sea off Rotterdam on Saturday, ahead of its first-ever arrival in the mammoth Dutch port.

A harbor spokesman said the 400-meter long Chinese ocean giant, which can carry 19,100 containers, would probably get the green light to enter Europe's Dutch maritime hub on Sunday.

Across western Europe, gusts of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour delayed airport landings and takeoffs and toppled trees on roads and rail tracks in northern Germany and Bavaria, where melting snows also caused some local flooding.

The DWD German Weather Service said storm Elon had brought winds of up to 161 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) on Friday night at Brocken, a high point on Germany's central Harz mountain range.

Temperatures as mild as 18 degrees Celsius had been measured in southern Germany and 15 degrees in London, contrasting with snowstorms just before New Year.

A sharp temperature drop was expected on Sunday, the DWD said.

Colder weather in eastern Mediterannean

Since mid-week, colder weather along the eastern Mediterranean has brought misery to tens of thousands of Syrian war refugees at camps in Lebanon and Turkey.

On Friday, Turkish authorities forcibly evacuated some 300 Syrian refugees from makeshift shelters in Ankara to a specially build camp at Gaziantep in Turkey's south east.

Dogan Eskinat of Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD said the aim was to safeguard vulnerable families as winter temperatures plunged.

Only Syrians who were able to sustain themselves remained outside camps, he said.

AFAD estimates that Turkey hosts 1.7 million Syrian refugees in total, of whom 230,000 are in camps.

Schneesturm Libanon 8.1.2015

Refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley shovel snow

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said mid-week that four war-displaced Syrians had died in Lebanon and two inside northern Syria as the result of the bleak weather.

UN stockpiles being distributed

Ron Redmond of the United Nations UNHCR refugee agency said local municipalities were distributing stockpiled winter aid supplies to refugees in some 800 informal settlements.

In the flashpoint Lebanese town of Arsal near the border with Syria, a local non-governmental organization was distributing 10,000 hot meals daily.

In Gaza, south of Israel, two Palestinian babies had died since Friday due to cold weather exposure, according to a Palestinian heath official.

Gaza's sole power station, which was damaged during last year's war with Israel, lacked fuel and could only deliver six hours of electricity each day, the official said.

ipj/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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