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Sewage flood in northern Gaza kills 5

Breaking Environmental Alert
Catastrophic Disaster
Photo: Palestinians run from the scene of a sewage flood in the village of Umm Naser, in the northern Gaza Strip. March 27, 07

UMM NASER, Gaza Strip — An earth embankment around a sewage reservoir collapsed Tuesday, spewing a river of waste and mud that killed five people and forced residents to flee from a village in the northern Gaza Strip, officials said.

A local Palestinian official blamed the disaster in Umm Naser on shoddy infrastructure, and U.N. officials said they had been warning of a catastrophe for more than two years.

Emergency workers poled between the houses on flat-bottomed boats and chickens fled their coops to perch high on power lines. The stench of sewage mixed with mud and dead animals filled the air, causing people to cover their mouths.

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Angry residents blamed local authorities for what they described as an environmental catastrophe. The sewage erupted from a new pool that was built on high ground. Local residents had objected to the project. When the pool overflowed, the sewage burst through fencing near the village of makeshift tin huts and Bedouin tents. Witnesses said hundreds of school children escaped unharmed because their school stands on higher ground.

Update: Photo: Palestinian rescue workers search for bodies amongst shanty houses after a cesspool embankment collapsed in the village of Umm Naser, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, March 27, 2007. (AP / Hatem Moussa)
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