Podcast: Gaza family of 6 perish in fire caused by candle lit after electricity cutoff

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A fire caused by a candle lit after electricity was cut off to the Dheir family home in Gaza City took the lives of six, including four children.

Ashraf Amra APA images

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

Rush transcript: Rami Almeghari from the Gaza Strip

The Electronic Intifada: Local Palestinian and international news agencies reported on Thursday that six family members, including four children between the ages of 4 months and 6 years old, died in a house fire east of Gaza City. Local officials said that the fire was caused by a candle that the family had lit because their home had been cut off from electricity after the family couldn’t afford to pay the bill.

An expanding economic and electricity crisis has plunged many families into darkness during the cold winter months, while Israel maintains its crippling economic and infrastructure siege on the Gaza Strip. Protesters held a demonstration outside the Gaza Electricity Company office later in the day on Thursday.

Joining us to talk about the current situation inside the Gaza Strip is our correspondent Rami Almeghari. Rami, thanks for being with us on The Electronic Intifada podcast.

Rami Almeghari: You’re welcome.

EI: Rami, if you could start by talking about the house fire that claimed the lives of six members of a family, in the context of the ongoing electricity crisis and economic crisis across the Gaza Strip.

RA: Actually, what happened recently regarding the fire that was set on the house in northern Gaza is a sort of repetitive incident that happens from time to time, frequently across the Gaza Strip. And it’s mainly because the very bad situation, the crippling situation in the Gaza Strip as far as the electricity supply is concerned.

You know that Gaza has been suffering from power outages from the past 6 or 7 years, mainly in 2006 when Israel bombarded the Gaza power plant, and caused the power outages throughout Gaza from time to time. And this has really affected the power supply to the population of the Gaza Strip, which is about 1.6 million residents, or more than this number, actually. The power supply is being affected in a sense that Gaza households, or Gaza facilities, whatever infrastructure is in Gaza, do not get the needed supply or the regular supply from the electricity plant or the power plant. 8 hours, or 10 hours sometimes, up to this moment, we all in the households of Gaza only get half of the needed supply — 8 hours or 10 hours of blackout or power outage throughout the region.

And this has forced many households in the Gaza Strip to go to alternative sources for power supply in Gaza. Some of the families in the Gaza Strip who are said to be impoverished and having no access to real life or to good welfare, are forced to light candles in a time of darkness and nighttime. And these candles are mainly the cause that have hit these houses, a few houses, several houses have reported to be burned out [because] of candle light, which is an inadequate lighting supply, or improper lighting supply. And the infrastructure of the homes are not proper for having these candles lit inside the houses. These were the main causes of the fire — that impoverished families or households cannot afford other alternative sources for power like power generators, something like that or the power saving units that run by electricity, not by fuel or gasoline.

EI: Rami, can you talk a little bit more about the overall humanitarian situation, the economic situation inside Gaza, nearly two months after Israel’s latest series of bombardments … Can you talk about what people are going through on a daily basis in Gaza?

RA: Yeah, this is a sort of also a repetitive incident or event in the Gaza Strip, since Israel imposed a blockade on the territory in 2007, Israel and the Israeli army has been doing lots of attacks or offensives against the Gaza Strip from time to time, every couple of years or three years we have a massive attack by Israelis against the Gaza Strip. This really has affected the population, the welfare of the people in Gaza.

Mainly, the infrastructure of the community of the Gaza Strip is being affected and impacted from time to time. Which means a lot of suffering for the population — thousands of houses have been destroyed or bombarded by the Israeli army’s actions throughout the Gaza Strip for the past 6 or 7 years. Also, away from the infrastructure, there is also the health services, the educational services that are being provided to the population of Gaza [which] have been affected, many schools have been destroyed in the recent attacks in November. More than 180 persons were killed, many of them were children, as well as thousands of people injured, also houses were destroyed, dozens of families have been rendered homeless out of these Israeli actions which have taken place recently in the Gaza Strip in the last quarter of the last year.

Also, I can highlight the infrastructure situation. The facilities, for example, the buildings, the civilian buildings, the facilities for the government have been destroyed. And this requires Gaza people or Gaza authorities to be up for the situation by trying to rehabilitate the situation in Gaza, the infrastructure.

The psychological impact of the wars that Israel launches from time to time is being observed widely across the Gaza Strip, especially the children who have been impacted by this war. And I can tell you there are many stories of people who have been suffering from the post-traumatic [stress disorder]. Up to this moment, not only has the recent war on Gaza impacted the psychological status of children, other people in Gaza, but also other previous wars are still having an impact on the people of Gaza, on the children of Gaza.

And I can tell you, I can announce to you and to my audience and to The Electronic Intifada, that I have a piece that is going to be published very soon about a girl who is 12 years old, and who has been impacted psychologically and also physically by the last Israeli war that was in 2009.

So the situation is a very difficult one that has affected, from many perspectives, at the level of the people, of the population, at the level of the infrastructure, at the level of everything, every specific or general aspect of life in the Gaza Strip. And the situation requires a real and serious international intervention at least to prevent more of these attacks on Gaza, or to make sure that the parties concerned in the Gaza Strip and the parties concerned in this part of the region are preserving some kind of stability and some kind of calm for the generations that live in Gaza and generations to come.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).