At least 21 killed, several others hurt in Gaza Strip building fire
Jabalia refugee camp is home to 2.3 million people. Image Credit: Twitter

Gaza: At least 21 people were killed and several others injured when a fire broke out in a building where residents attended a party in the Gaza Strip, health and civil emergency officials said on Thursday.

Footage circulated on social media and witnesses said the whole residential building caught fire in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip, sending flames and smoke from the site.

Witnesses said they could hear screaming but they could not reach the victims to offer help because of the intensity of the fire.

Jabalia is one of eights refugee camps there, home for 2.3 million people and one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Fuel stored at the site

The Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that several children were among the dead.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry said an initial investigation revealed that large amounts of gasoline had been stored at the site, fueling the blaze that quickly engulfed the building.

It took firefighters more than an hour to get control of the massive flames that burst through the top floor of a four-story residential building. Witnesses said they could hear screaming but could not help those trapped inside because of the intensity of the fire.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the fire.

“It’s a tragic incident. Many of the victims haven’t yet been identified as they have been burnt badly,” Al Jazeera correspondent Youmna ElSayed, reporting from Gaza, said.

She said candles lit during a birthday celebration caused the fire. “When candles were lit up, a fire quickly erupted and an explosion took place,” she said.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority urged Israel to open the Erez crossing with Gaza to transport serious cases in order to treat them outside the besieged enclave if necessary.

Jabalia is one of eight refugee camps in Gaza, home to 2.3 million people and one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The enclave has been under an air, sea and land blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.

“The President gave instructions to provide all forms of medical and other assistance urgently,” Al-Sheikh said on Twitter.