A snowstorm has engulfed Lebanon on the first day of the new year, cutting off mountain roads, isolating villages and worsening living conditions for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Many refugees, living in tents and huts in the eastern Bekaa Valley, only came briefly out of their shelters on Friday to clear the snow so their dwellings would not collapse.

Elsewhere, Syrian children were seen tossing snowballs at one another and playing in the snow.

The storm, dubbed Vladimir, started on Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning many mountains roads were closed, including the highway linking Beirut with the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Police called on people to avoid mountain roads, citing the closures and bad visibility.