Israel lifts sabbath public transport ban for Jerusalem snow emergency

JERUSALEM Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:09pm GMT

A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snow storm in Jerusalem December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snow storm in Jerusalem December 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jerusalem's heaviest snow for 50 years forced Israeli authorities to lift a Jewish sabbath public transport ban on Saturday and allow trains out of the city where highways were shut to traffic.

Troops in armoured personnel carriers were helping emergency services crews to try to restore electricity for thousands in the Jerusalem area and Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that "the extent of the storm has surprised us".

An estimated 35,000 people have no electricity and homes are hard to reach as streets are blocked not only by snow but also by stranded vehicles on the third straight snowy day.

A Reuters photographer saw four armoured personnel carriers filled with soldiers making their way towards the city.

There were no reported casualties in the Jerusalem area but in the Tel Aviv area heavy rains were blamed for the deaths of two people. On Friday, a man fell from a rooftop and a toddler was killed when a room heater caught fire.

Freezing weather also cut off parts of Israel's northern Galilee region, including the holy city of Safed, where snow blocked access to the local hospital, officials said.

(Reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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