1.6.1 Electricians flash burn in Gaza
Problems with electricity are still persistent in Gaza today, and have been so for five years since the city has been under Israeli siege, since 2007, while at the same time Israel controls Gaza's electricity as insufficient fuel is provided for the generators. According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, more than 200,000 Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip have been suffering from power outages for 16 hours a day, and this places a heavy burden on the Electricity Company in Gaza, which has no central control room to monitor and manage the flow of electricity. Whenever it is necessary to redistribute electricity to share out the power cuts, technicians have to proceed to a substation and pull a switch manually. The switches are designed to be activated once a year for maintenance, but they are currently being used five times a day. Consequently, a significant proportion of patients admitted to our burns centre present burns due to electrical switchboard explosions. These injuries were all flash burns associated with low-voltage current.
It was only recently that we began to collect general burn patient data treated in the Al-Shifa Burn Center and therefore, prior to the year 2010, we do not know the exact number of patients admitted to our burns unit. We started to collect data about flash burn patients in 2011.
In April 2011 two young male patients were admitted to the Al-Shifa Burn Unit with electrical flash burns. Both patients presented first- and second-degree burns to the face, neck, upper limbs, and chest wall. Burn extent ranged from 12 to 18% TBSA. Both patients had an ophthalmological examination no eye injuries were found.
1.6.2 Generator-related burns
As a result of rolling blackouts, Palestinians in Gaza have resorted to installing emergency generators in their homes, many of them of poor quality, in a desperate bid to be able to cook, wash, and have water to drink. Generators have become part of the furniture in many homes in Gaza, but people are not aware of the dangers involved and have inadequate knowledge of the correct use of generators. Many other Gazans have lost their lives as a result of handling generators in a hazardous manner. In the last two-year period, 15 patients died because of fires caused by gas explosions and hundreds more were seriously injured. These accidents happened when people smoked a cigarette near the generators or refuelled them while still standing on the blocks or blocking the airways in some way.
At the Al-Shifa Burn Unit, there are at least two cases every month of children burned by the plug wire of an electric generator and admitted for hand or finger debridement, having sustained third-degree hand and finger burns.
1.6.3 Gaza Strip tunnels
These tunnels were dug under the Egypt-Gaza Strip separation barrier which separates Egypt from the Gaza Strip. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a very tight siege on the Gaza Strip, preventing anyone from entering the Gaza Strip and has blocked the importing of building materials and most kinds of goods. Tunnels provided a solution to the Gazans' needs. We have admitted to our Centre many tunnel workers with open fire burns suffering from extensive, deep, inhalation burns; the majority died. These burns occurred when a tunnel worker lit a cigarette, causing the explosion of residue gas, or when cables inside the tunnel shortcircuited.