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Reservoir of sewage kills 5 in Gaza Strip

March 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

UMM NASER, GAZA STRIP — A sewage reservoir in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed Tuesday, killing five people as waste and mud swamped a village.

Rescue crews and Hamas gunmen searched for people underneath the noxious liquid. Dressed in wetsuits, they paddled boats on the rivers of waste or waded in up to their hips.

When Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Hani Kawasmi arrived to survey the damage, his bodyguards fired in the air to disperse a crowd.

A sewage treatment plant stores waste in seven holding basins, and excess has been diverted to create a large lake.

When the earthen embankment around one of the seven basins collapsed, the wave killed two women in their 70s, two toddlers and a teenage girl, hospital officials said. More than 200 homes were destroyed.

The mayor of Gaza City blamed the collapse on residents digging dirt from the structure and selling it to builders.

A 2004 U.N. report warned that the sewage facility, built for a population of 50,000, was handling waste from 190,000.

U.N. official Stuart Shepard said international funding for a new plant had been secured but that construction could not proceed because of security risks.

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