Authorities in Gaza have issued an appeal for assistance in extinguishing a fire that has been ongoing for several days at a waste landfill site. This fire has been emitting noxious smoke, further exacerbating the environmental challenges faced by the blockaded enclave, which is already grappling with severe environmental issues.
“We are working day and night, but unfortunately fires may go on for at least till the end of the week,” said municipality spokesperson Hosni Mhana.
Boosted by a severe heatwave, the fire, southeast of Gaza City, close to the separation fence with Israel, has been burning in an area of roughly 50,000 square meters (539,000 sq. ft) of a landfill site which has swollen in the absence of recycling facilities.
“We have been unable to tolerate the smell of the fires for three days, it is not normal, you can’t breathe,” said Salem Abeid, 64, who lives around 1 km (0.6 mile) away from the landfill.
Citing security concerns, Israel and Egypt have enforced a blockade of Gaza since the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the densely-populated coastal enclave in 2007, restricting the movement of people and goods.
Palestinians say these restrictions have severely impeded their ability to respond to emergencies.
Mhana said the lack of ways to recycle the garbage made the problem chronic, and the landfill only got bigger and bigger over the years.
“The environmental impact is huge because while some materials degrade, some other materials such as plastic do not and they stay in the soil,” he said.