Sewage Swamps Gaza Streets as Egypt Tunnel Closures Cut Power

GAZA (Reuters) -

Children waded through sewage submerging the streets of a central Gaza neighborhood on Thursday, a day after one of the Hamas enclave’s largest waste-water treatment plants stopped for lack of fuel.

The muck, which bubbles up from manholes and overflows from the idle plant when waste goes untreated, could soon spill into the homes of tens of thousands more residents in downtown Gaza City, officials and residents said.

Egypt’s months-long crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply has already forced Gaza’s only power plant to stop, meaning two weeks of daily 12-hour blackouts for the territory’s 1.8 million residents.

“This is the start of a catastrophe, and unless the world listens to our cries, a real disaster may hit Gaza and its people,” Gaza municipality’s Sa’ad El-Deen Al-Tbash said.

Gaza municipality officials said the treatment plant served 120,000 residents. They warned that other waste-water facilities may soon run out of fuel for their generators.

Along one street, passersby covered their noses, and some residents driving donkey carts helped those navigating pools of waste.

Residents have taken to planning their social lives around the power cuts. Many make sure not to leave home in the evening without a flashlight.

“The first question someone asks when invited over by a friend is ‘Will there be electricity? I don’t want to climb the stairs,’” said Ali Mohammed, an electrician.

“I blame the whole world,” he said.