Moldovan Ship Sinks Off Israel Coast Due to Stormy Weather, Crew Safe

Israel's first 'winter' weekend leads to accidents, blackouts and injuries, with winds up to 100kmh-strong.

A Moldovan cargo ship sank in bad weather off Israel's coast on Sunday but its 11 crew were rescued, an Israeli maritime official said.

"The Moldovan ship sank ... the crew got off on life rafts," Yigal Maor of Israel's Shipping and Ports Authority told Israel Radio.

The sailors, all Ukrainian, were "alive and well" after being picked up by a Taiwanese merchant vessel, he said.

Another official with the Shipping and Ports Authority named the Moldovan ship as the "Adriatic".

Israeli media said the ship had been carrying 3,000 tons of iron and issued a mayday call 10 miles (16 km) from Ashdod port as squalls raked Israel's coastal region.

he port had been closed as a precaution against accidents.

But habour master Tzvika Kfir said a Turkish ship was allowed to dock on Sunday given the difficult conditions at sea. The Shipping and Ports Authority named that vessel as the "Fidan".

Another Turkish vessel had reported losing power 20 miles (32 km) out in the Mediterranean, Kfir said.

"We do not have the ability to go out of port right now to help them," he told Israel Radio. "They are saying that ... if the storm continues they will be swept northward."

After a weekend of rains and 100kmh-strong winds - which caused a number of accidents, blackouts and injuries across the country - the long-awaited winter weather conditions are set to escalate Sunday. Expect much more rain falling across the north and center of the country.

Snow began to fall on Mount Hermon in the morning and more was expected elsewhere on the Golan Heights.

The strong winds over the weekend cost a 4-year-old Jerusalem boy his finger, after the wind slammed a door on his hand.

A 6-year-old girl from Beitar Ilit, who was visiting the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochan on Mount Miron with her family, was also injured this weekend after the heavy winds caused a door to slam on her hand.

Five people were lightly injured at the Holiday Inn in Tiberias after a large glass window was shattered by the heavy winds.

Traffic throughout many areas of the country was congested after streetlights stopped working and trees fell onto roads. In the Negev, heavy sand storms impairing visibility caused a traffic accident that left six people lightly injured.

Various regions throughout Israel also experienced power shortages, caused by rain, lightning and falling trees caught by the wires due to powerful winds. In the Gush Dan metropolitan area, trees and branches fell on electrical wires, cutting off power in parts of Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Holon and Bat Yam. The Israel Electric Corporation was able to restore power in most locations.

The company said Saturday that it was well-prepared for the storm, citing a nation-wide drill for extreme winter conditions held two weeks ago. The company's 103 hotline will operate in the coming days as an emergency line, and the company warned torn that electrical wires and cables must not be touched under any circumstances.

The Electric Corporation also asked that people remove or secure objects that can be picked up by the wind - such as shutters, antennae and window boxes.

Despite the strong winds, rain across most areas over the weekend was moderate. By last night, Nahariya topped the list with 42mm in rainfall, followed by the northern Golan Heights with 30mm and Rosh Pina with 20mm. Only 4mm of rain fell in Tel Aviv over the weekend, while Jerusalem saw just 1mm of rain.

Much stronger rainstorms are expected Sunday, however, and winds are expected to reach 120 kmh.

Nahum Malik of the Meteotech weather service told Haaretz that waves further off the coast are expected to be as tall as 10 meters high, and that rain will fall continuously from noon until after midnight, reaching some 70 to 100mm along the coast. Flooding may take place in cities and in the parts of the Carmel region decimated by the recent forest fire.

Temperatures were also expected to drop Sunday - to 4 degrees Celsius in Safed, 7 degrees in Jerusalem and 15 degrees in Tel Aviv. Tomorrow the wintery weather should begin to recede, although rain may still fall up until Tuesday morning.

Temperatures are expected to rise toward the end of the week, but it will not be as warm as the first week of December. More rain is expected over the weekend, but Malik said it will likely be considerably weaker than that expected for Sunday.