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Gaza 'faces disaster' after power cuts cause sewage floods

Gaza 'faces disaster' after power cuts cause sewage floods
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There are warnings of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza caused by the floodwater submerging the streets: not the aftermath of heavy rain, but raw sewage.

One of the Palestinian enclave’s largest waste water treatment plants has stopped working because of power cuts caused by fuel shortages.

Residents are forced to pass by or through the filthy muck that overflows into the streets each time the plant goes idle and the waste goes untreated.

“This is the start of a catastrophe and unless the world listens to our cries, a real disaster may hit Gaza and its people,” said Sa’ad El-Deen Al-Tbash of the Gaza City wastewater department. “This is a humanitarian, not a political issue.”

Lack of fuel has disrupted the territory’s only power plant, causing daily 12-hour blackouts.

“It’s one of two things, either they give us continuous electricity to this area, or they somehow come up with diesel so the power plant can work. The power plant needs to work for 12 hours straight and if it stops for one hour the whole area is flooded,” said Gaza resident Maher Salim.

The fuel shortages follow Egypt’s closure of most of the estimated 1,200 cross-border tunnels that used to bring in cheap fuel.

The military-backed government in Cairo accuses Hamas, which controls Gaza, of backing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to buy imported from Israel at double the price.

Israel has imposed its own blockade on Gaza, allowing in only fuel and a restricted list of imports since Hamas took control in 2007. The Islamist group has spurned Western calls to recognise Israel and renounce violence.

Gazan officials said the affected treatment plant served 120,000 residents, and warned that other waste water plants may soon run out of fuel for generators.

Gaza economist Maher Al-Tabbaa’ said the shortages of fuel and power meant that many businesses could not afford to run a generator.

“The continuing stoppage of the Gaza power plant… foreshadows a real catastrophe that might affect the
basic food security of the people as well as the health and education sectors,” Tabbaa’ said.