A large sewage reservoir in Umm Nasewr, in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday, drowning five people in a puddle of waste and mud that also covered a village.
Rescue crews and Hamas gunmen headed to the area to search for people that had been buried under the sewage and mud. Dressed in wetsuits, they rode boats through a layer of foam floating on the green and brown rivers of waste. Others entered the waste and found themselves up to their hips into the sewage.
According to the Denver Post, the noxious smell of waste and dead animals hung in the air.
Aid officials said plans to build a larger waste treatment facility had been held up for years by perpetual fighting in the area. The existing treatment plant in northern Gaza stores waste in seven holding basins and is located a few hundred yards from Israeli border.
The growing population in the area produces about four times as much waste as the plant could treat, and therefore officials have put overflow sewage in nearby dunes. The U.N. reported to the Denver Post that the sewage has created a lake that covers nearly 110 acres. The flood was caused when an earth embankment around one of the seven basins collapsed.
Officials have reported that the wave killed two women in their 70s, two toddlers and a teenage girl and injured 35 other people. Over 200 homes were destroyed.
The Gaza City mayor has blamed the collapse on local people digging out dirt from the structure and selling it to building contractors.