The UN reports that 10,000 people were displaced in the record-setting storm and that it could take another week to clear the flooding.
A week after record-setting winter storms pounded the Middle East, areas of the Gaza Strip are still struggling to cope with severe flooding of homes and businesses. Gaza City residents reported that local government officials were slow to respond, had few available resources and showed little evidence of advanced planning. Instead, most immediate assistance was provided by community members who organized fishing boats and other makeshift watercraft to rescue people from their homes.
This week, Palestinian police and local officials coordinated efforts to help families recover belongings from their homes and restricted access to flooded neighborhoods to deter looters. Prior to the storm, 12-hour blackouts and the lack of fuel to run generators had initially limited the ability of civil defense forces to pump water from flooded areas. These conditions, due to the Israeli siege and Egyptian cooperation which closed trade through tunnels on the southern border, were somewhat mitigated by the entry of 450,000 liters of fuel paid for by Qatar to restart Gaza’s sole power plant.
However, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness on Saturday said 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.”
Only two people are reported to have died in the storms, with others only suffering light injuries, but the UN estimates more than 10,000 were displaced, seeking refuge in schools, police stations and relatives’ homes. It is estimated that it will take another five to seven days to completely remove the remaining floodwaters and allow residents to return to their homes.