Jump to content

This brings new meaning to the phrase "wipe out"

Recommended Posts

Five killed after sewage floods village in Gaza

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Published: 28 March 2007

Five people were killed in Gaza yesterday when overflowing sewage destroyed an earth embankment, flooding a village in the northern strip with mud and waste.

The collapse of the embankment left 25 people injured, and submerged about two dozen houses in water and effluent in `a disaster that UN officials said they had warned of as long ago as 2004.

A UN official in Gaza said that efforts to build a new waste treatment plant near the village of Umm Naser had been delayed in the past by the high security risks in the area, which is 300m from the border with Israel. The area has frequently seen Palestinians firing rockets and Israel responding with artillery fire.

Dr Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry said that two women in their 70s, two toddlers and a teenage girl had died in the sudden flood.

The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Fadel Kawash, said the level of sewage in the pool had increased in the past four days, seeping up the embankments and "causing the sewage to pour into the village."

Ziad Abu Farya, the head of the Umm Naser council, described the scene in his village as "our tsunami".

A 2004 report by the UN's Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs pointed to the urgency of constructing a new treatment plant and added: "unless action is taken to address this problem, water in this effluent lake will spill out over the holding basins into residential areas, and directly into homes."

The report had also warned that the site was a heath risk as a source of mosquitoes and waterborne diseases. Stuart Shepard, an OCHA official in Gaza, said the waste spill has made those risks even higher. "It is an extremely serious situation," he said.

Hamas gunmen, along with rescue crews, rushed to the search for residents - many were initially thought to have been buried under the slide of mud and waste. As residents fled or were evacuated from the village, three children were seen leaving on a cart pulled by a donkey for the nearby town of Beit Lahiya.

Residents reacted angrily to reporters and government officials who arrived at the scene. There were reports that bodyguards accompanying the new Palestinian Interior Minister, Hani Kawasmeh, who went to inspect the damage, had fired into the air to disperse the angry crowd.

Amina Afif, 65, whose small shack was destroyed, said: "We lost everything. Everything was covered by the flood. It's a disaster."

Hamas blamed international sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, but Mr Shepard said the construction project had not been affected by the boycott. He said that since the UN's 2004 report was published, international funding for a new plant had been secured but construction had not been able to go ahead because of the high security risks in the area.

Israel has offered to provide humanitarian assistance to the village.

Meanwhile, there were clashes last night between Palestinian youths and a group of Israeli right wing activists, who were holding a circumcision ceremony in the ruins of the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh. This settlement was evacuated under Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan in 2005.

Israeli media reports said that rocks had been thrown at Palestinian children by the activists, who want the settlement to be re-opened and that police had broken up the clashes.

Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, has said the settlers will not be allowed to stay.

* The Israeli government apologised yesterday for an incident in which the British deputy ambassador Janet Rogan was strip-searched behind a security screen on a visit to the prime minister's office, despite having presented her diplomatic identification.

A spokesman for the British embassy, which lodged an official complaint over the incident, said the apology had been accepted "and we now regard the incident as closed".

The prime minister's office has apparently instituted procedures to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...