Floods Drive Thousands From Gazan Homes

A major winter storm has caused power outages and major flooding in parts of Israel and Palestine. As much as 2 feet of snow crippled Jerusalem and Ramallah over the past few days, and floods forced thousands of people in the Gaza Strip to leave their homes.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

The sun is shining in Israel and the Palestinian territories today, a welcome reprieve after a major winter storm. Nearly two feet of snow crippled Jerusalem and Ramallah over the past few days. Floods forced thousands of people in the Gaza Strip to leave their homes.

NPR's Emily Harris has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN)

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Gazan families rescued from rising waters crowded schools for temporary shelter. Saturday afternoon, Maher Bargout and 14 family members had two mattresses in one classroom.

MAHER BARGOUT: (Through Translator) Our house flooded, we took our valuable papers to our neighbors and their house flooded. You can call this Tsumani Gaza. It's a nightmare.

HARRIS: Gaza was in bad shape before the storm hit. A fuel shortage meant electricity had been down to six hours or less a day. Today, fuel - paid for by Qatar - is on the way and Gaza's only power plant may start running again for the first time in weeks. While Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast, was under water, Israeli and Palestinian areas high in the hills were snowed in. Days after the storm hit, major roads were still closed and there are still some powers outages here as well, says Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

MICKEY ROSENFELD: Normally in the past, it's only been for a short four or six hours overnight. Here, we're talking about four days, remote areas, electricity, problems leading to other problems.

HARRIS: At least six people died in this storm, due to flash floods, fire and smoke inhalation. Before things got bad, people had some winter fun. But now, many are ready for snowmen to melt and floodwaters to recede.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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