A rainstorm paralyzed parts of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Monday, turning streets to small rivers, stranding motorists inside their vehicles and damaging homes in some areas.
The flooding came as protesters have been holding nearly two months of demonstrations against the country’s political elite and decades of widespread corruption and mismanagement. Protesters remained in their encampments in Beirut and other cities amid the heavy rain.
Despite spending billions of dollars since the 1975-90 civil war on improving infrastructure, Lebanon still suffers hours long electricity cuts every day, and many people rely on tanker trucks to bring water to their homes. Every year when it rains, roads get flooded with water because of an inadequate sewage system.
The rain began to fall on Sunday morning and has affected the entire country, but Beirut and its suburbs were hit the worst.
In the southern suburb of Ouzai, cars were nearly submerged in the rising water, leaving motorists stranded.
A tunnel that passes under the Rafik Hariri International Airport remained closed for hours because pumps that clear water from inside it didn’t work.
A man was seen using a surf board to pass through the tunnel, while in other parts of the city some residents used small boats to get around.
Outgoing Minister of Public Works and Transpiration Youssef Fenianos blamed the crisis on what he said was 50-year-old infrastructure and population increases in some areas. He added that as a result of Lebanon’s recent economic and financial crisis, it was difficult to open lines of credit for infrastructure work.
“I am ready to take full responsibility,” the minister said during a news conference on Monday.
Fenianos was part of the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned on October 29 under fire from the anti-government protesters.
A stalemate has since ensued over who should head the new government amid a deepening economic crisis, shortage of liquidity and hard currency.