Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gaza Sewage Flood Kills Five

AP reports:

UMM NASER, Gaza Strip - A huge sewage reservoir in the northern Gaza collapsed Tuesday, killing five people in a frothing cascade of waste and mud that swamped a village and highlighted the desperate need to upgrade Gaza's overburdened infrastructure. ...

Aid officials said plans to build a larger waste treatment facility had been held up for years by perpetual fighting in the area between Israel and Palestinians and donor concerns about political instability. However, construction did not appear to have been affected by international sanctions imposed on the Palestinians after the militant Hamas group's election victory last year.

The existing treatment plant in northern Gaza — located just a few hundred yards from the border with Israel — stores waste in seven holding basins. With the burgeoning population producing nearly four times as much waste as the plant could treat, officials have put overflow sewage in the nearby dunes, creating a lake covering nearly 110 acres, the U.N. said. ...

Fadel Kawash, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, said the sewage level had risen in the reservoir in recent days. Shepard said the earthen embankments also had been weakened by rain.

But Gaza City Mayor Majid Abu Ramadan, who leads a council of Gaza municipalities, blamed the collapse on lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, accusing residents of stealing the dirt and selling it to building companies for $70 a truckload.

A 2004 U.N. report warned that the sewage facility, built for a population of 50,000, was handling waste from 190,000 people, and flooding was inevitable. It warned that the lake created by the overflow from the seven basins posed a serious health hazard, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and waterborne diseases. ...

Umm Naser is about 300 yards from the border with Israel, in an area where Palestinians have frequently launched rockets into Israel and Israeli artillery and aircraft have fired back. The situation worsened after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier last June in a cross-border raid, and Israel responded by invading northern Gaza.

The flooding underscored the fragility of the overburdened infrastructure in the impoverished and overcrowded coastal region of 1.4 million people. The West Bank too, is suffering from eroding sewage and water infrastructure.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blamed international "sanctions against Palestinians" for the sorry condition of Gaza's infrastructure. Most foreign donors froze aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas came to power last year, but Shepard said a project to build a treatment plant in northern Gaza had not been affected by the boycott.

The Kosher Hedgehog comments: Funny, but somehow during the decades from 1967 until the Oslo Accords, throughout the awful, oppressive, genocidal Israeli occupation, there was no sewage disposal problem. In 2006, the Palestinian Authority, headed by Hamas, received 1.2 Billion Dollars from Arab countries, Iran and the United Nations. The United States and the European Union contributed tens of millions of dollars more, for humanitarian aid, despite the sanctions against the Hamas government. Last month, Israel released $100,000,000 in impounded taxes that it had collected since the election of the Hamas government. Apparently, paying and outfitting militias, shelling Southern Israeli towns and cross-border raids to kidnap Israeli soldiers were a higher priority than sewage disposal. Cox & Forkum have it about right:

Oh, by the way, Israel immediately offered aid in the rescue and cleanup.


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