More updates from Gaza, besieged by cruel Israeli policies and now by torrential rains, Israeli-dam flash-floods, and continued power outages [yesterday's post here]:
UNRWA calls Gaza ‘disaster area,’ pleads for end to Israeli blockade
Dec 14, 2013
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said that large regions of the Gaza Strip are a “disaster area” and called on the world community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed, in a statement sent to Ma’an.
“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands,” the statement read.
“Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities. Our sanitation, maintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and round the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women,” the statement continued.
“We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better,” it added, referring to major fuel shortages across the Gaza Strip that have dramatically worsened in the last few months.
Gunness also highlighted the need for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to allow the region recover from the current crisis.
“When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza,” he said.
“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” the statement continued.
“And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who wil pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade.”
The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.
Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.
The Gaza Strip has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.
Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.
In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.
Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford.
Thousands in Gaza shelters as blackouts cripple emergency response
Dec 14, 2013
The Gaza Ministry of Information announced Saturday that the numbers of residents staying in shelters in the besieged coastal enclave had hit 5,000 as streets and homes remain flooded in large swathes of the territory.
Separately, the Gaza Health Ministry said that the number of people injured in storm-related incidents over the last four days throughout Gaza had hit 96 on Saturday, after flooding hit dangerously high levels due to record rainfall on Friday.
Gaza’s civil defense force media spokesperson Muhammad al-Midna told Ma’an that civil defense teams had successfully evacuated 1,190 people from their homes since the beginning of the storm, in addition to pumping water out of flooded homes and rescuing cars trapped on flooded streets.
Al-Midna said that the hardest hit neighborhood was Nafeq Street near Sheikh Redwan, which was inundated with flood water and led to a dramatic rise in water levels in the surrounding areas.
Al-Midna added that the lack of electricity had exacerbated the difficulties faced by Gaza residents as it limited the ability of civil defense forces to pump water from flooded areas.
Gaza is drowning in rainwater and sewage. Israel’s seven year blockade and regular bombing means that the only power plant in Gaza can no longer function properly. After Israel bombed the structure in 2006, it refused to allow in concrete to repair it sufficiently.
On top of that, Israel’s siege means there’s no longer enough fuel to power it full-time. Palestinians in Gaza are living with six hours of electricity a day. The rest of the time, they can’t heat or light their homes, cook, run their fridges, or do whatever it is you’re doing now.
It’s winter now in Gaza, and cold. Live in that without heat. The lack of electricity means that the sewage treatment plants can’t function, and sewage has been pouring into the streets for about three weeks. Children have had to wade through it to get to school.
Recent heavy rains, including a massive downpour today, have added to the mess. Homes are being flooded, the streets are awash. The siege means that everything is scarce. Food prices have rocketed, vital medicines are at zero stock, hospitals are without electricity.
Two weeks ago, the UN’s special rapporteur for Palestine said Gaza was ‘on the point of catastrophe’. How much more catastrophic does it have to get before the international community imposes sanctions on Israel, whose policies are aimed at bringing Gaza to its knees? And when is the BBC going to report on the hell inside Gaza?