15 Dec 2013

Thousands remain stranded in Gaza flooding disaster

At least 4,000 people remain evacuated from their homes after four days of torrential rain caused floods in northern Gaza – an incident described as a “real humanitarian disaster.”

The flooding, which has also led to at least two deaths, has been so severe that some homes can only be accessed by rowing boat, and the water in two metres deep in some areas.

We witness a real humanitarian disaster which affected all sides, a lack of fuel, a lack of electricity. Isra al-Modalla

Gaza’s 1.8 million people have been enduring daily blackouts since the territory’s sole power plant was switched off 43 days ago.

Following calls from the Hamas-led Gaza government, 450,000 litres of fuel were allowed by Israel into the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The fuel was paid for by Qatar.

“Hopefully, the power plant will gradually resume full operation during the day,” said Ahmed Abu Al-Amrain of the Gaza energy authority.

“The fuel we are receiving from Qatar will allow us only to return to the old schedule of eight hours of cuts followed by eight hours of power.”

Thousands have been left stranded by Gaza floods (picture: Reuters)

Hamas had called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to open up borders.

Isra al-Modalla, spokeswoman of Gaza’s Hamas administration, said: “We witness a real humanitarian disaster which affected all sides, a lack of fuel, a lack of electricity.

“We called the international humanity and the community to pressure the Israeli occupation to open the borders and to let the fuel to allow the necessaries into Gaza.

“This is political problem not only a humanitarian problem. And this is a real collective punishment on all Palestinian people.”

The Gaza health ministry said that 100 people had been hurt as flood waters damaged poorly built homes in the area.

The flooding has been caused by four days of torrential rain (picture: Reuters)

People were also trapped in their homes by rising water. On Saturday a 22-year-old Palestinian man died from smoke inhalation after lighting a fire to warm his home, a government spokesman said.

Around 5,000 people were initially evacuated from their homes, but some have now been allowed to return to their houses after rescue teams pumped water from flooded streets.

An initial assessment by the government has put the damage caused to homes, businesses and infrastructure at $64m. Qatar, which is spending $450m on construction projects in Gaza, will allocate $5m to aid Gaza residents.