Floodings force 40,000 Gaza Strip residents to leave their homes
Floodings force 40,000 Gaza Strip residents to leave their homes

Flooding from heavy rains forced 40,000 Gaza Strip residents to leave their homes, including thousands who were taken to safety in boats and military trucks.

The downpour that began late Wednesday was part of a storm that covered parts of Israel and the West Bank with snow, paralyzed Jerusalem and left thousands in Israel without power . Even Gaza with its milder coastal climate saw some snow.

Rescue efforts were hampered by fuel shortages and rolling power cuts that have become more severe in recent months, since Egypt tightened a border blockade of the territory, ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas since 2007. Israel has also restricted access to Gaza since the Hamas takeover, though it sent diesel fuel for heating and four water pumps during the weekend storm.

In all, the flooding forced about 40,000 people from their homes, including more than 5,200 who were taken to safety in boats, military trucks or heavy construction vehicles, government officials said.

Another hard-hit area was the refugee camp of Jebaliya in northern Gaza. The local Al Aqsa TV station, run by Hamas, showed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, both of Hamas, touring Jebaliya in a boat.

Housing Minister "Yousef Jhariz" who headed the government's crisis team, said that the storm caused at least $64 million in damages. One man died from smoke inhalation after burning coal for warmth in his house.

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