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Middle East

Icy floods force Gaza residents from homes

Winter storm fells trees, damages buildings and injures dozens of people in densely populated Palestinian enclave.

Last updated: 13 Dec 2013 03:48
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Some poorly built houses collapsed in the icy rain and many people sought refuge in schools [Reuters]

Severe flooding has forced dozens of families in the Palestinian Gaza Strip to leave their homes as a winter storm battered much of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Some poorly built houses collapsed in the icy rain on Thursday, and many residents were seeking refuge in schools.

The Health Ministry said more than 30 residents had been injured in car crashes and collapsed buildings.

We need urgent intervention from the whole world to save our lives.

Fayez al-Yazghi, shop owner

Gaza's 1.8 million people, governed by the Palestinian group Hamas, have already been enduring around 12 hours of blackouts daily since the lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage.

The enclave lies on the coast, sparing it the snow that has fallen across other parts of the region, but heavy rains felled trees and damaged nearly 200 homes.

"This is the worst weather we've had in 20 years. There's no electricity, fuel and cooking gas. Many homes are flooded and destroyed," shop owner Fayez al-Yazghi told Al Jazeera. "We need urgent intervention from the whole world to save our lives."

Locals built makeshift bridges across the torrents with bricks and wooden planks, while emergency workers plied flooded streets with heavy trucks and small fishing boats to whisk residents trapped by the freezing water to safety.

One of the most densely populated tracts on Earth, Gaza lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade with the declared purpose to cut off arms flows, but also curbs imports of fuel, building supplies and basic goods.

"The whole country is paralysed due to the siege," Gaza resident Abu Hanafi told Al Jazeera. "The world is watching Gaza suffering from all the catastrophes and doing nothing." 

In parts of the occupied West Bank and in Jerusalem, many schools and offices were closed and public transport was briefly suspended.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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