The bodies of nine Syrian refugees who crossed into Lebanon have been found frozen in a mountainous area near the border with Syria, according to the Lebanese army.
The military said in a statement that the bodies were found on a people-smuggling route in the early hours of Friday after a snowstorm hit the Masnaa area, where Lebanon’s largest official border crossing with Syria is located.
“The army saved six other displaced Syrians, one of whom died later in a hospital from frostbite,” the statement added, raising the death toll to 10.
“The bodies were taken to the hospitals in the area, and the army continues to search for other displaced people trapped in the snow, in order to evacuate them and provide medical treatment for them.”
The identities of the Syrian refugees were not immediately known. According to some reports, at least one child was found among the bodies.
Two other Syrian nationals were arrested and charged with people-smuggling, the army added.
Temperatures dropped on Friday as winter storms battered the Lebanon-Syria border, making the lives of the more than 357,000 Syrian refugees living in makeshift tents in the Bekaa Valley, some 60km north of Masnaa, even more difficult.
A reporter said that Syrian refugees “face many challenges during the winter months”.
“They live in tents that are made out of plastic sheeting, which does little to protect them from the cold and the rain,” she said.
Hammadi Chelbi, a Syrian refugee who has been living in Bekaa Valley after he fled the Syrian conflict in its first year, told reporter that he and his family are living in misery.
“We have nothing but pain, sickness and suffering,” he said. “We are deprived of everything.”
There are one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, although government officials estimate that the number is closer to 1.5 million.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is not getting the money it needs to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon through another harsh winter.
Last year, it requested $228m but received less than 60 percent of that, prompting it to warn that life in the camps was getting worse.