An estimated 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged as the streets of Gaza City. They were flooded with water and sewage after a week of torrential downpours, prompting the UN Palestinian refugee agency to declare a state of emergency in the area.
Forced out of their homes, thousands of Palestinians are now sleeping in classrooms and makeshift shelters after a massive weeklong storm ravaged the region, reports the Ma’an News Agency. This includes the nearly 30,000 who had been staying at emergency housing after Israel’s 51-day summer offensive.
“The flooding is exacerbating the already-dire humanitarian situation in Gaza caused by blockade and the unprecedented destruction from the latest Israeli offensive,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
As a result of the flooding, 63 schools across Gaza City and 43 schools across the Northern Gaza Strip governorate were closed Thursday, according to the UNRWA. The Washington Post reported that volunteers are trying to stop the water with mud and sand-filled garbage bags.
Pumping water out of flooded areas is particularly problematic due to the severe lack of fuel in the Gaza Strip, aggravated by Israel’s eight-year blockade. In addition, the area lacks adequate sewer management facilities, making recovery from the crisis even more challenging.
On Wednesday, Gaza major Nizar Hijazi warned residents that the Strip’s lack of resources could trigger a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
“The infrastructure of the Gaza Strip is weak and ill-equipped to receive any increased rainfall because of the disaster caused by the increased rainfall last year and the recent war which destroyed a large part of the Strip,” he said.
The UNRWA vowed to provide “emergency fuel to supply back-up generators for pumping stations, portable pumps, municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities” to combat shortages on Thursday.
Severe flooding is not unusual for the region. Last December, heavy rains swamped the Strip and resulted in the displacement of some 40,000 Palestinians.