Middle East

Gaza floods: UN declares state of emergency

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Media captionHundreds have had to evacuate their homes and roads are flooded

The United Nations has declared a state of emergency in the Gaza Strip after two days of heavy rain led to severe flooding.

No casualties have been reported but hundreds of people have been evacuated and 63 schools are closed for the day in Gaza City.

More than 400,000 Palestinians have been displaced since the 50-day summer conflict with Israel ended in August.

In October international donors pledged $5.4bn (£3.4bn) for rebuilding Gaza.

Heavy rains which began on Wednesday hit the small territory at a difficult time, as thousands of Gazan families still live in communal shelters or the ruins of their own homes after the conflict.

In the Shejaiya neighbourhood, where air strikes during the recent conflict damaged many of the buildings, residents already face a cold winter without electricity or water.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Residents of the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City were forced to leave their homes with their belongings
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Shejaiya's infrastructure remains extremely damaged since the summer conflict
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many residents chose to remain in their damaged homes rather than move to crammed shelters

"We are very concerned about such severe storms this early in the season and on the back of unprecedented damage and destruction caused by the recent conflict," said Robert Turner, the UN's Director of Operations for its Palestinian Agency UNRWA in Gaza.

"We are particularly concerned for those families still seeking adequate shelter and preparing for the winter months, and for the impact the flooding is already having on children unable to attend school."

In August an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was called between Israel and the Palestinians under which Israel agreed to ease its eight-year blockade of Gaza, Egypt would re-open its border crossing and militant groups and Israel would cease hostilities.

The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.

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