Business Booms For Gaza Ice Man, Just As Power Fades
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
A cease-fire is still in place between Israel and Hamas, though there's still no word on an extension. Businesses in Gaza not destroyed in the war are reopening. Some never stopped operating. NPR's Emily Harris visited one company that stayed open most days, even though it depends on two commodities in short supply - clean water and electricity.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Mohammad Abu Hassira makes ice. In a big walk-in freezer in Gaza city, ice chips fall from the maker onto a plastic sheet on the floor. They're scooped into small plastic grocery bags. There is always a line at the door. Most people leave without getting ice, Abu Hassira says. They have to try later.
MOHAMMAD ABU HASSIRA: (Through translator) I open the door about every 30 minutes or so when I have enough ready. I open the door, sell, then close the door again.
HARRIS: A woman comes asking for ice. She needs it right now. It's not ready, Abu Hassira says. That's what you said yesterday, she says, but you found some for me. You need to wait, he tells her, this time. Demand for ice grew as available electricity dropped. Abu Hassira has a generator and had a big tank of fuel. But once that was used up, getting gas has been hard. Getting fresh water has been harder he says. Most of Gaza's tap water is briny.
MOHAMMAD ABU HASSIRA: (Through translator) I buy it from the desalinization stations. I can't always get as much as I want. I couldn't make ice for two days because there was no water.
HARRIS: Pumping and desalinating water take electricity, too. People bought ice to cool drinks or to chill medicine. Hekmat Abdullah's wife is diabetic. He paid just over a dollar for a few pounds of ice to keep her insulin cool.
HEKMAT ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken).
HARRIS: I'm supposed to buy ice every day, he said, but this factory can't make enough for everyone everyday. There used to be another factory in Shujayea, he said, but it was hit in the shelling. Before the war, this tiny ice factory catered mainly to fishermen. During the war, Abu Hassira says he didn't raise prices. He's still making money, but less. And he expects business to keep booming until electricity is at least back to the partial service Gaza has had for years. That's beginning to happen. Yesterday, Israel repaired its end of the lines that provide some power to Gaza, but Gaza's grid is still disabled and its power plant destroyed. Abu Hassira expects it will be a while until he's back to just cooling sardines. Emily Harris, NPR News.
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