VIDEO - At least six people died and many more were missing after sewage and mud flooded a northern Gaza Strip village Tuesday morning, officials said.
The hospital in Beit Lahiya reported that an elderly woman, a 1-year-old baby, a 3-year-old child and a 15-year-old girl were among the casualties. Some 15 people were injured.
The Bedouin village, Umm Naser, was flooded when the earth wall of a large cesspool sewage pool collapsed. Palestinians reported that 70 percent of the houses were completely submerged in the sewage, and residents said more than 200 people were still missing in the village of 3,000.
Body of child killed in flood (Photo: AP)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz instructed the IDF to provide assistance to the Palestinians through the coordination mechanism in territories. Peretz ordered the army to prepare for a possibility of evacuating the injured to Israeli hospitals.
A senior army officer, however, told Ynet that the Palestinians had no asked for Israeli assistance in the evacuation of the injured or in the delivery of medications and medical equipment.
Ziad Abu Farieh, the village council head, described the scene of the incident as "our own tsunami."
PA minister blames Israel
Abu Issam, a city council member, told Ynet that "this is a terrible disaster that caused the collapse of the systems in the entire village. We call on all institutions and organizations in the Palestinians Authority and outside the Palestinian Authority to provide us with urgent assistance. Hundreds of people will find themselves without a roof over their heads by the end of the day."
Rescue crews and gunmen from Hamas rushed to the area to search for people feared buried. Most of the village's residents fled or were evacuated. A number of angry Palestinians attacked the rescue crews, as well as a convoy of Palestinian Interior Minister Hani Al Qawasmi.
Extent of damage (Photo: AFP)
Palestinian Environment Minister, Dr Yousef Safia, blamed Israel for the flooding.
According to Safia, Sweden and the EU have provided the Palestinian Authority with the funds necessary to construct a modernized sewage system which will divert its contents to the ocean. However, Safia claimed that Israel had threatened to bomb construction workers and the sewage pipes should the project begin.
Muhammad Dahlan, member of the Palestinian legislative Council, said that the Bedouin village should be declared a disaster area.
"The causes of this incident are the Israeli occupation, the security situation and the disregard and the indifference of the responsible bodies."
The Palestinian Authority and international aid groups, particularly from the European Union, were preparing to build a camp in the area in order to provide shelter for the residents whose houses were destroyed
Amina Afif, 65, said her shack in the village had been destroyed.
"We lost everything, everything was covered by the flood. It's a disaster," Afif said.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report