Gaza power station rumbles to life for first time in weeks

Most serious fuel crisis in Gaza history

GAZA CITY - Gaza's lone power station rumbled to life Sunday for the first time in more than seven weeks after the besieged Palestinian enclave received a long-awaited delivery of diesel, its electricity company said.
"The power station started reworking gradually after stopping for 50 days," said Jamal Dirsawi, spokesman for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO).
The plant, which supplies some 30 percent of the coastal enclave's electricity needs, fell silent on November 1 as stocks of diesel to power it ran out.
"The first generator has started working, the second one will follow, and by this evening, the company should be able to generate around 60 megawatts of electricity," he said.
"This will give GEDCO an opportunity to provide more hours of electricity to citizens."
Gaza is going through the most serious fuel crisis in its history, causing daily power outages of up to 16 hours that have affected private homes, schools and hospitals, businesses, and water and sanitation plants.
The power station began operating hours after receiving a delivery of fuel which had been purchased from Israel by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority using funds donated by Qatar.
Raed Fatuh, the PA official in charge of transferring goods into Gaza, said 450,000 litres of fuel were being supplied to the plant on Sunday.
The PA is involved in helping coordinate the transfer of goods into Gaza via Israel, which the Islamist movement Hamas ruling the territory does not recognise.
Hamas has blamed the fuel outage on Egypt's destruction of cross-border tunnels which had been used for bringing fuel into blockaded Gaza.
They have also accused the PA of charging too much for fuel.
Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, the deputy head of Gaza's energy authority, said Sunday's delivery would see the number of hours without power halved.
"We have already started today buying Israeli fuel with Qatari money," he told a news conference.
"The power station will start working and the service will be available gradually, returning to the former programme of eight hours with electricity and eight hours without.
"We are trying our best to improve our service to the public, and to operate the power station with the fuel available."
The emergency fuel distribution was expedited on Friday after a major winter storm hit the region, with heavy snowfall across Israel and the West Bank and flooding in Gaza.
Following a UN request, Israel began delivering fuel into Gaza for domestic heating and fuel pumps for draining the floodwater.
In a statement on Sunday, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the storm had caused damage to electricity feeder lines from Egypt and Israel, further exacerbating the power problem in the coastal enclave.
"Although the lines were repaired by the end of 13 December, the storm has continued to result in damage to the electricity distribution network," it said.