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Devastating Floods in Eastern Libya’s Derna Leave Over 5,000 Dead

September 13, 2023

In a tragic turn of events, the death toll resulting from the catastrophic flooding in Derna, a city in eastern Libya, has surged past 5,000, with authorities bracing for the count to rise further. A local health official conveyed this grim news on Wednesday as efforts to provide aid to the beleaguered coastal city encountered numerous challenges. Thousands are still missing, and tens of thousands find themselves homeless in the aftermath of the deluge.

Aid workers who managed to access the city described scenes of utter devastation in its core. Search and rescue teams scoured shattered apartment buildings for bodies, and the retrieval of floating corpses from the sea became a haunting reality.

Emad al-Falah, an aid worker hailing from Benghazi, conveyed the dire situation, stating, “Bodies are everywhere, inside houses, in the streets, at sea. Wherever you go, you find dead men, women, and children. Entire families were lost.”

The calamity was triggered by Mediterranean storm Daniel, which unleashed deadly flooding in several eastern Libyan towns, with Derna bearing the brunt of the devastation. Reports suggest that as the storm lashed the coast, the city’s dams collapsed with thunderous explosions, releasing torrents of water down Wadi Derna, a river coursing through the city and into the sea.

Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya, described the horrifying scene, stating, “The city of Derna was submerged by waves 7 meters (23 feet) high that destroyed everything in their path. The human toll is enormous.”

Derna’s geographical layout, nestled between steep mountains along the Mediterranean, has left only two routes from the south accessible, both requiring lengthy, winding journeys through rugged terrain. Aid teams, laden with limited supplies, have navigated these routes, while the city’s emergency workers have struggled with the existing resources at hand.

As of now, Derna has recorded at least 5,100 deaths, with an additional 100 reported elsewhere in eastern Libya. Over 7,000 individuals have sustained injuries, with many receiving treatment in field hospitals set up by authorities and aid agencies. The death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue teams continue their grim task of recovering bodies.

The catastrophic flooding has displaced around 30,000 Derna residents, rendering the city nearly inaccessible for humanitarian aid workers, according to the International Organization for Migration.

This tragic disaster underscores Libya’s vulnerability, exacerbated by its political divisions, with rival governments in the east and west leading to neglect of critical infrastructure in various regions.

As one survivor aptly put it, “This is a disaster in every sense of the word,” reflecting the profound devastation that has befallen Derna and its residents. International aid efforts, including those from neighboring countries and the United States, are underway to provide relief and support to the beleaguered city.

Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesman for the eastern Libyan interior ministry, reported a death toll exceeding 5,300 in Derna, with dozens of fatalities reported in other eastern Libyan towns.

Efforts to manage the deceased have resulted in the transfer of hundreds of bodies to morgues in nearby towns, including Tobruk, where 84 Egyptians were among the victims. The tragedy has deeply affected a village in southern Egypt, with a mass funeral held to honor those lost in the floods.

As the situation in Derna remains critical, with thousands still missing, the international community rallies to provide aid, support, and solace to a city ravaged by nature’s fury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: AP

 

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