Floods in Libya: more than 3,800 dead, apocalyptic landscape

Entire neighborhoods submerged by water and mud, landslides, enormous destruction

Floods in Libya: more than 3,800 dead, apocalyptic landscape

Entire neighborhoods submerged by water and mud, landslides, enormous destruction. The Libyan coastal town of Derna offers an apocalyptic landscape on Wednesday after devastating floods which left more than 3,800 dead and thousands missing.

The death toll continues to rise in this city in eastern Libya on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, hit on Sunday by Storm Daniel, where bodies wrapped in blankets litter the streets or are piled up in pick-ups. ups on the way to the cemeteries.

At least 30,000 people who lived in this city of 100,000 inhabitants were displaced, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and uncertainties remain over the exact number of victims of the disaster given the large number of missing people.

Images, broadcast on social networks by local channels, show scenes of desolation in Derna: roads disappeared under the mud, devastated buildings, bridges washed away, landslides.

Bodies began to be washed up by the sea on Tuesday, which changed color, becoming brown like mud.

The city is now only accessible via two entrances to the south (out of seven usually), widespread power outages and disruptions in the telecommunications network limit communications there, according to the IOM.

In addition to Derna, 3,000 people were displaced in al-Bayda and more than 2,000 in Benghazi, other towns further west.

According to the spokesperson for the Interior Ministry of the government in power in the east of the country, Lieutenant Tarek al-Kharraz, more than 3,800 people died in the floods. 3,840 deaths have been recorded in the city at this stage, of which 3,190 have already been buried on Tuesday. At least 400 foreigners, mainly Sudanese and Egyptians, are among the victims.

At least 250 bodies were found Wednesday, while more than 2,400 people are still missing, he said.

The authorities in the East fear that the final toll from the floods in Derna and neighboring towns will be much higher given the scale of the devastation and the difficulty of delivering relief.

In Libya, plunged into chaos since the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two authorities are vying for power, one in the East and the other in the West.

Osama Ali, spokesperson for the Libyan "Rescue and Emergency Service" under the internationally recognized government in Tripoli (west), reported on Tuesday a toll of "more than 2,300 dead" and around 7,000 injured in Derna, as well as more than 5,000 missing people.

An official from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported an “enormous” number of deaths which could be counted in the thousands, with 10,000 missing.

Since the great earthquake which shook the town of al-Marj (east) in 1963, this is the worst natural disaster experienced by Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya.

On Sunday afternoon, Storm Daniel reached the eastern coast of Libya, hitting the metropolis of Benghazi before heading east towards cities in Jabal al-Akhdar (north-east), such as Shahat (Cyrene). , al-Marj, al-Bayda and Soussa (Apollonia) but especially Derna.

A few hours later, the two dams on Wadi Derna, which hold back the waters of the wadi that runs through the town, failed.

Witnesses told Libyan media that they heard a "huge explosion" before powerful torrents reached the city, overflowing the banks, sweeping away bridges and entire neighborhoods with their inhabitants towards the Mediterranean.

In the country and abroad, there is strong mobilization to help the victims, even if help is still arriving in trickles.

The European Commission announced the sending of aid from Germany, Romania and Finland to Derna as part of the European Union (EU) Civil Protection Mechanism.

The EU has also released an initial envelope of 500,000 euros to respond to the most urgent needs of Libyans.

Jordan sent a plane full of humanitarian aid and Italy announced the departure of a ship and two military transport planes to transport experts and logistical equipment.

“Given the scale and complexity of the needs, it is imperative that a well-coordinated, multi-agency approach is deployed,” the UN stressed.

An official from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Erik Tollefsen, warned of the danger linked to contamination by weapons of war, due to floods which have "displaced unexploded ordnance in areas previously free from contamination.

This places “more risks for survivors and those responsible for humanitarian aid”.

13/09/2023 19:54:35 -         Derna (Libye) (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP