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Gaza hospitals declare state of emergency

Aug. 8, 2010 4:42 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2010 10:53 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza's hospitals announced a state of emergency Sunday following the shutdown of the Strip's sole power station a day earlier.

Director of ambulance and emergency services Muawiya Hassanein warned of a potential humanitarian disaster as a result of the blackout, resulting from an ongoing fuel shortage. He warned of a severe deterioration in heath services, particularly in children's hospitals, maternity wards, intensive care units and for patients requiring dialysis and premature babies in incubators.

"The health care sector relies on generators ... If their power gets cut off for even five minutes, it could lead to dozens of deaths, including children and patients in critical condition in the operating room," Hassanein said.

The generators, which are in regular use across the Strip owing to the rolling blackouts, require constant maintenance and care, he said.

Hassanein added that hospitals began receiving dozens of patients since the blackout started who can longer power oxygen machines or medical equipment in their homes.

The official said that since 2008, 142 Gaza residents have died in generator-related accidents, noting an increase in house fires. Hospitals have received up to 450 burn victims as a result, 58 of whom were disabled, he added.

The power plant was shut down due to a shortage of fuel. Under current arrangements, the Gaza government is meant to collect electricity bill payments and transfer the cash to the Palestinian Authority, which in turn pays Israel, through which the fuel is transferred.

The Gaza Power Authority blamed Ramallah's finance ministry for failing to make the payments to Israel, while Ramallah officials have insisted that the GPA make a greater effort to collect power bill payments.

Gaza officials cited 50 percent unemployment rates, and the PA announcement Saturday that it will deduct 25 percent from paychecks of employed Gaza residents, as factors making it near impossible to collect sufficient payments to keep the plant running.

This is the third time power plant has been forced to close due to fuel shortage this year.
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