More than 4,000 people have been evacuated from homes flooded after four days of heavy rain across the Gaza Strip, said an official from Gaza’s rescue services.
In the northern part of the territory, water levels reached some 40-50 cm, according to the Ma’an News Agency.
Those who were evacuated are being sheltered in schools across the Strip. Some of those trapped by rising waters were rescued using fishing boats. A local TV station showed a rescuer standing on the shoulders of another man in a boat as they tried to reach people in a third-floor apartment.
“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see,” Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the main UN aid agency for Gaza refugees, wrote in an email to reporters.
The UN agency evacuated hundreds of families to UN facilities and distributed 5,000 liters of fuel to local pumping stations, he said.
Mohammed al-Madaina of the Gaza rescue service says efforts were hampered by lack of fuel and power, a result of a tightened Egyptian border closure. Israel and Egypt have restricted access to Gaza since the Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
Hamas Health Minister Mufid al-Mukhalalati declared an “extreme state of emergency” as all rescue crews were put on high alert across Gaza.
The downpour continued Saturday as part of a severe winter storm that covered Jerusalem and some of the West Bank with thick snow.
Israel sent emergency aid to Gaza at the request of the United Nations, said Maj. Guy Inbar, an IDF official. This included four water pumps and diesel fuel for heating, he said, adding that Israel was ready to meet additional requests if made.