27 March 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
More than 250 houses were overwhelmed by a flood of sewage Tuesday morning when the wall of a huge cesspool collapsed next to the village of Um Nasser in Beit Lahiya in the northernmost part of the Gaza Strip, forcing some 1,500 people to flee their homes.Four people were confirmed dead on Tuesday afternoon, among them a four year-old boy and a 70 year-old woman. Sixteen people were injured while escaping the waters.
Local residents are still searching for bodies thought to be trapped inside the rubble of houses destroyed by the flood. The great majority of the inhabitants of Um Nasser are refugees registered with UNRWA.
UNRWA social workers described scenes of panic among the displaced people outside the village. The social workers were told by fleeing villagers of people still missing among the flooded houses.
Musa Jaber, a 28 year-old Palestine refugee and father of five, said he and his family were in shock when sewage began to rush into his neighbourhood destroying houses, Bedouin tents and zinc-roofed shelters.
“The level of sewage was very high and horrifying, more than one metre high. Women and children were screaming at the top of their lungs for help”.
Bulldozers are levelling land east of Beit Lahiya to make space for the tents UNRWA is erecting as shelters for the more than 150 displaced families. UNRWA trucks are bringing in six water tanks with a capacity of 6,000 litres of water to the emergency camp established north of the affected village. Food, blankets, mattresses and hygiene kits will be distributed in co-ordination with other UN and aid agencies.
The operation to rescue the population from the flooded part of Um Nasser will continue through the night.
The area around the large cesspool in Beit Lahiya was shelled heavily by Israel Defense Forces during its 2006 “Summer Rains” operation. Unexploded ordnance which fell inside the reservoir is now feared to have spread with the floodwater.
For more information please contact:
Contact: (Jerusalem) Contact: (Gaza)
Gina Benevento Adnan AbuHasna
+ 972-54-240-263 1 +972-599-428-061