Devastating floods and near-freezing temperatures bring death and more chaos to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon

A teenager carries a boy across a flooded street near a Syrian refugee camp.

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (CNN)Mohamed Kassaf, 32, was in his tent with his four children when a storm hit. The river outside Hoor refugee camp overflowed. Rain and sewage water seeped through the tent's tarpaulin sheets.

"The water went from tent to tent. We kept moving from room to room until I couldn't take it anymore. I had the kids sent somewhere else," recalls Kassaf. He spent the night in his bed soaked and waiting for the storm to pass.
The water rose to nearly half a meter at many of the Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley this week. Aid workers in the area say that some 600 refugee families were forced to evacuate their homes, braving rain, sleet and strong winds to find shelter. They trudged through sewage water that burst through the drainage system to get to shelter.
    In the northern town of Minyeh, an 8-year-old Syrian girl died during the storm after she fell into a river and drowned.
    Rahma Mohammed Ali, 60, is visually impaired and lives in a tent on her own. When the storm that meteorologists called Norma struck on Monday, her neighbors helped her get out. "It was chaotic and completely humiliating. And the smell of the sewage was just deadly," says Ali.
    Cars on the road near the refugee camps in the Bar Elias area drive through half a meter of water.
    The storm covered much of Lebanon's mountains in snow, damaged some of the capital's largest bridges and washed over its seaside towns. In its low-lying areas, such as the Bekaa plains, near-freezing temperatures came with floods.
    As with every Lebanese winter since the start of the Syrian war in March 2011, Syrian refugees were the hardest hit. The camps speckle the Bekaa plains, parts of northern Lebanon as well as the mountains near the border region of Arsal where the tents are blanketed with snow.
    Storm Norma, aid workers and refugees say, is the worst they endured in years.
    "We always used to joke that the people of the Bekaa plains were demanding that the government give us a beach," says Meshaal Hammoud, operations manager at the local organization SAWA for Development and Aid. "Well, now the sea has come to us."
    "This storm was an absolute disaster," says Hammoud, himself a Syrian refugee.
    Planks, styrofoam boxes and other objects make for dry passage in Kassaf's tent.