The Hamas government shut down Gaza’s lone power plant after a shortage of electricity and cheap diesel fuel from Egypt. The lack of power has caused a pump station to flood in recent days, flooding the streets in a southern Gaza City neighborhood with raw sewage, threatening a health disaster in the area. Soon, the sanitation department may not be able to pump drinking water to Gaza homes any longer.
Sanitation officials said 3.5 million cubic feet of raw sewage is seeping into the Mediterranean Sea daily and more sewage stations in Gaza City and elsewhere in the Gaza Strip are close to overflowing. Farid Ashour, director of sanitation at the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, said, “Any day that passes without a solution has disastrous effects. We haven’t faced a situation as dangerous as this time.”
Gaza’s 1.7 million residents had gotten used to years of scheduled blackouts, which generally meant around eight hours without electricity two of every three days, but now they are facing daily power failures of 12 or even 18 hours. This has caused numerous changes in the lives of ordinary Gazans. Hospitals are rationing electricity to keep dialysis and cardiac support systems running. Students are doing Internet research in the middle of the night and businesses have cut back production. Many residents have resorted to using generators and kerosene lamps.
The electricity shortage comes a year after eight days of intense cross-border violence killed 167 Palestinians and six Israelis. The past 12 months have been the quietest in terms of fire exchanged with Israel in a decade. While Israel has eased some of its restrictions, political changes in Egypt have left the strip with other problems.
The Islamist Hamas movement that governs Gaza shut down the power plant on Nov. 1. Four months earlier, Egypt’s new military-backed government secured and closed the smuggling tunnels that were used to transport nearly one million liters (about 260,000 gallons) of diesel to Gaza daily. Because of the taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has refused to import Israeli diesel.