The first storm of the winter hit Israel last week. Following a long period of drought, the plentiful downpour was greeted with joy, even though the stormy weather predictably caused flooding and damage. The rain and strong winds also hit Gaza, where residents found that they are particularly vulnerable in stormy weather.
Prior to the storm, international organizations warned of the poor conditions of the residents living in destroyed houses and tents and of schools with no windows. Special aid was allocated to prepare for the winter. The warnings were based on the well-founded fear that the ongoing supply situation would continue: since June 2007, Israel has blocked the entry of most raw materials into the Gaza Strip, even those urgently required to repair the heavy damage sustained in the war and to repair and upgrade the humanitarian infrastructure. The electrical system is in urgent need of hundreds of different parts which are either entirely out of stock or are down to minimum quantities only – parts that are waiting in the West Bank and Israel until the latter will permit their transfer to Gaza.
Nedal Toman, Engineer and Project Manager at the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCo), said: “We have bought all of the equipment we could find on the local market, even parts that do not meet the standards of the system but can at least be used as ‘band-aids,’ so that we can supply electricity to the people in the meantime.”
Indeed, the storm’s strong winds knocked out power for between 150,000 and 200,000 people, after the makeshift infrastructure was damaged . GEDCo warned that without spare parts and raw materials, Gaza’s entire electrical network is in danger of collapse.