MIDDLE EAST: Rains, winds cause havoc

Heavy rains and fierce winds pummeled countries across the Middle East over the weekend, sinking a Moldovan cargo ship off Israel and killing a woman in Lebanon whose car was crushed by a tree falling on it. The storm brought unusually cold temperatures, below freezing in some spots. It ended weeks of unseasonably warm and dry weather that contributed to dozens of forest fires in Lebanon and a massive blaze in Israel. It whipped up sandstorms in Jordan and Egypt, which closed its largest Mediterranean port, Alexandria, in the face of 12-foot waves. In Syria, snow blanketed the streets of Damascus for the first time this winter. Syrian authorities closed their main port of Tartous. Elsewhere in Israel, rain, hail and strong winds toppled trees and traffic lights, flooding streets and knocking out electricity to hundreds of homes. In the Gaza Strip, strong winds and lashing rains caused cracks in the pier and the breakfront at the harbor local fishermen use. Egypt was hit by rain and winds up to 37 mph in Alexandria. Sandstorms blanketed Cairo for a second day yesterday.

SOMALIA: Pirates seize cargo ship

Pirates have captured a cargo vessel about 1,000 miles east of Somalia, the European Union's anti-piracy force said Sunday. The EU Naval Force said the attack took place only 550 miles from the coast of India. Pirates launched the Saturday attack from two skiffs that were supported by a mother ship. They fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at the MV Renuar, a Panama-flagged, Liberian-owned vessel. The EU force said the condition of the 24 Filipino crew members was unknown. The force said on Friday pirates hijacked a U.S.-operated ship just east of the Tanzania-Mozambique border.

ANTARCTICA: South Korean fishing boat sinks

Four are dead, 18 are missing and 20 were rescued, South Korea said today, from a fishing boat that sank in the Antarctic Ocean. A Coast Guard officer said the company that owns it said it was 1,400 miles south of New Zealand. Eight of the 42 sailors are South Koreans, she said.

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