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Gaza power cuts up to 32 hours per week

Dec. 13, 2009 5:34 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2009 9:12 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Electricity is to be distributed in Gaza on just four days a week, for eight hours a day, a spokesman for the local power company said on Sunday.

“Gaza is suffering a 25% shortage of electricity. It is expected that the shortage will increase to 35% because of winter and low temperatures which lead to an increase in [electricity] use during winter, as residents use electric heating appliances,” said Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) spokesman Jamal Ad-Dardasawi during a telephone interview with Ma’an.

Palestinians living in Gaza are to expect between 18 to 32 hours without electricity per week, he said, adding that “there are no other options for the company other than to distribute the already existing amounts of electricity and then to cut off the electricity to avoid a crisis.”

Ad-Dardasawi pointed to a number of factors as causes of the power cuts, including Israel’s refusal to allow in sufficient fuel, malfunctions with distribution lines, and the sudden cutting off of power from Israel.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), last week Israel allowed 2.46 million liters of industrial fuel into Gaza, about 78% of what the Strip’s only power plant needs to operate at full capacity.

In addition, Gaza’s electric network was badly damaged during Israel’s war on Gaza last winter. Due to the damage, some 40,000 people are without electricity all the time, OCHA reports.

“The only realistic solution to easing the electricity shortage is for Israel to increase the amount of fuel that is allowed into Gaza. The company is producing around 60 megawatts and if more fuel were allowed in, we could produce around 75 megawatts,” he said.

Eastern Gaza receives electricity from power lines from Israel, while Western Gaza relies heavily on the local power plant, he said. “The company has proposed cutting off power in West Gaza during daylight hours, so that the area may have electricity at night.”

Ad-Dardasawi concluded by saying that “what deepens the crisis is Israel’s denying access to the materials that are needed by the company such cables, columns and parts for maintenance. There are 240 different kinds of equipment that we are lacking, which are waiting for Israel to allow into Gaza.”
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