The Daily Star
Heavy rains swept Lebanon Thursday, causing havoc on main roads, stranding drivers and school buses, and flooding houses in familiar scenes caused by chronic mismanagement and poor maintenance of roads and highways.
TV footage showed cars stalling in some 50-centimeters-deep water pools and flash floods on the highway south of the capital Beirut and surrounding villages such as Naameh and Damour. The flooding caused vehicles to come to a standstill, forming lines several kilometers long on the highway linking Beirut with south Lebanon.
Drivers of stranded vehicles on the highway between Damour and Naameh appealed to local municipalities and Civil Defense crew to help in reopening the flooded highway, the state-run National News Agency reported.
The rainstorm, which led to a suffocating traffic jam from the coastal town of Jiyyeh to Naameh and Khaldeh, also caused some car accidents, the NNA said.
However, the rainstorm and the flood waters it caused, which are normal at this time of the year, gave anti-government protesters ammunition to blast the ruling political elite.
“Where are the road maintenance and the sewage system we have been promised by successive governments to prevent a recurrence of this disaster every time it rains?” an angry woman told a local TV station, speaking from her car that got trapped in a water lake on a main road in Khaldeh.
“The popular uprising should not stop before all corrupt politicians are removed from power,” she said, adding that she was on her way to pick up her children after the school called her saying that the bus carrying children back home got stuck in flood waters.
The woman, in her 40s, was referring to the unprecedented nationwide street protests that erupted across Lebanon on Oct. 17 against the ruling elite, demanding an overhaul of the decadeslong sectarian based system and the formation of a government of independent technocrats to fight corruption widespread in ministries and state institutions.
Residents phoned in to TV talk shows to express deep frustrations, blaming local authorities for their repeated failures and if what they said is anything to go by, the fiasco appears set to galvanize the 50-day nationwide protest movement that shows no signs of letup.
Main roads, north of Beirut, were also blocked with flood waters, causing a traffic congestion and trapping motorists for hours before municipalities and Public Works Ministry vehicles intervened to reopen roads.
The Transport and Public Works Ministry issued a statement saying its workers and technical equipment were placed on full alert to reopen roads and clear the blocked rain water drainage systems.
“Despite the lack of the necessary allocations, the ministry’s workers and its equipment have been on the ground, carrying out the required maintenance works on international highways and main roads since the beginning of September,” the statement said. It added that the ministry was helping relevant municipalities to ensure the flow of rainwaters and dealing with floods in some areas.
Torrential rains blocked roads in the Aley district, while several houses and shops were flooded with water. Towns in the Aley district turned into rivers, carrying soil and rocks as a result of heavy rain.
Weather forecasters predicted the rains to ease later Thursday and stop Friday afternoon.