Death Toll in Tunnels Collapsing Rises to 232, Al Mezan Expresses its Sorrow for the High Number of Victims and Demands Gaza Government Take Effective Steps to Protect Tunnel Workers
More people have been killed as a result of collapsing tunnels in Gaza, with the death toll rising to 232 persons according to information obtained by field workers of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. In addition, 20 Palestinians were killed inside tunnels as a result of two Israeli aerial attacks. Nine of the 232 killed were children. Since 2006, 597 persons were injured in separate incidents.
In one incident, heavy rains caused the collapse of a tunnel, showing the non-committal atmosphere in respect to safety procedures for tunnel workers. Three people were killed as a result. The tunnels are supposed to be closed during such unsafe conditions, which were clearly demonstrated by the tens of houses that were flooded due to the heavy rains at that time. Civil defense teams were able to recover two decaying bodies and attempts to recover the third body were in vain. In addition, eight people were injured when trapped inside different tunnels.
At approximately 4:35 pm on Monday 14 January 2013, civil defense teams recovered the dead body of Ali Shawqi Ghaben, 19, who had been working in a tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border near Salah Ad-Din gate, south Rafah town. He died when the tunnel he was working in collapsed.
At approximately 6:00 pm on Saturday 12 January 2013, civil defense teams recovered three injured persons from the same tunnel. They were admitted to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital where their injuries were described as moderate. Al Mezan has identified them as follows:
Jebrel Jaber Abu Jazar, 24;
Hazem Mohammed ‘Aram, 24; and
Maysara Nasser Al Batniji, 19.
At approximately 1:00 pm on Wednesday 17 January 2013, civil defense teams recovered the dead body of Basem Shaheen Khader, 41, who had been working in a tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border. Another person is still missing. The tunnel had collapsed due to heavy rains.
At approximately 2:00 pm on the same day, civil defense teams recovered two injured persons from another tunnel. They were admitted to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital where their injuries were described as critical. Al Mezan identified them as follows:
Mohammed Ali Ibrahim As-Sabea’, 19; and
Mohammed Sameer Daban, 26.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights expresses its deep regret for the high number of victims in these incidents. Most of the people who work in tunnels are from very low-income backgrounds and have been forced to undertake this kind of work to provide for their families under the difficult socio-economic conditions caused by the Israeli siege on Gaza. Al Mezan reiterates its previous calls on the Gazan government to take effective steps to protect tunnel workers and to prevent further injuries and deaths.
Al Mezan asserts that tunnel work needs reconsideration from the Gazan government. Gaza’s Government should look into the benefits of continuing this work particularly amidst the ongoing loss of life and the drawback of its role in the Palestinian economy in the Gaza Strip.