Gaza flooding updates (Ma’an news)

OCHA: Number of displaced tops 10000 in Gaza
Dec 15, 2013

Approximately 10,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to widespread flooding in the Gaza Strip, according to a report released Saturday evening by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The numbers of displaced dwarf earlier estimates, as they take into account both the thousands who have sought refuge in Gaza shelters as well as those who have sought refuge elsewhere.

The areas most devastated by the storm are “North Gaza and Gaza City where over 1,500 houses suffered damage due to water entering houses, damaging furniture and electricity networks.”

An infant died and 100 were injured in storm-related incidents throughout Gaza, the report said.

Schools throughout Palestine have been closed since Thursday, and according to OCHA 17 schools in Gaza have been converted into shelters, while five other schools have been rendered unusable due to flooding.

In Gaza, over 10 percent of the coastal enclave’s greenhouses and field crops were destroyed or damaged by winter storm Alexa, in addition to 50 animal pens, the report said.

“120,000 chicks and 200 heads of livestock died as a result of the weather.”

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Saturday that large regions of the Gaza Strip were a “disaster area” and called on the international community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Saturday that large regions of the Gaza Strip were a “disaster area” and called on the international community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.

“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,” he said in a statement sent to Ma’an.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

Until Sunday, the Gaza Strip had 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.

The power station began operating Sunday after receiving a delivery of diesel that was purchased from Israel by the Palestinian Authority using funds donated by Qatar.

The plant was only reopened in 2012 after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the 2006 assault on the Strip. The power plant generates around 30 percent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.

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 2011 and 2012, however, the situation 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 Hamas authorities to afford.

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2 dead, 2200 in shelters across storm-ravaged Gaza Strip
Dec 15, 2013

Gaza Ministry of Health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra in a statement Sunday identified the two dead as 21-year-old Hamza al-Amour, who suffocated to death while trying to heat himself at home, and 90-year-old Mahmoud Farajallah, who died after his house was flooded.

More than a hundred people were injured in storm-related incidents across the Gaza Strip as well, the statement added, though most of these injuries were minor.

The storm was the strongest the region had seen in decades and it revealed the decrepit state of the Gaza Strip’s aging infrastructure. Since 2006-7, the Israeli blockade of Gaza has severely restricted imports of concrete, making repair extremely difficult.

The power crisis also compounded the storm’s devastation, as in recent days electricity availability plunged from six hours a day to a mere one or two after electricity lines from Egypt and Israel into Gaza were downed soon after the storm hit the area.

In some areas electricity was cut completely for two days as cold water flooded up to half a meter in many places.

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Officials warn Gaza Strip on the verge of health crisis

Dec 15, 2013

The results of winter storm Alexa in Gaza will lead to a health disaster unless the world intervenes, a Palestinian medical official said Sunday.

“We are on the verge of a complete breakdown in the health sector, services, and civil institutes,” General Director of military medical services in Gaza Atef al-Kahlout said.

Al-Kahlout said he feared chest and skin diseases would run rampant as a result of constant exposure to sewage water and lack of medical supplies.

He called on countries worldwide to aid Palestinians in Gaza by providing medication and supplies.

During disaster-relief missions in the neighborhoods of al-Nafaq and al-Zaytoun, 81 people were taken to hospitals while others were treated on the spot, he said.

Al-Kahlout added that rescue teams brought 91 families from the neighborhoods to shelters as their homes became too dangerous to inhabit.

Spokesman for the Gaza ministry of interior Islam Shahwan called on Egypt to fully open the Rafah crossing to allow supplies and aid into Gaza.

Civil defense forces have been doing their best to deal with emergencies despite the fact that they lack 80 percent of the equipment necessary to perform their tasks, Shahwan said.

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