International aid intended for the town of Derna ravaged by deadly floods flowed into Libya on Saturday but hopes of finding survivors among the thousands of people missing are dwindling six days after the disaster.
Storm Daniel which struck Derna on the night of Sunday to Monday, a town of 100,000 inhabitants located in eastern Libya, led to the rupture of two dams upstream causing a flood of the magnitude of a tsunami on along the wadi which crosses the city. It swept away everything in its path and left thousands dead.
The floods left a landscape of desolation in a large part of the city. Entire buildings were swept away by the waves. Others are half destroyed, cars are smashed against the walls.
During the night from Friday to Saturday, Othman Abdeljalil, Minister of Health of the Eastern Libyan administration, reported a death toll of 3,166.
After communicating different reports from various sources, he stressed that only his ministry was authorized to give figures.
In a statement published on Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the bodies of 3,958 people had been found and identified, and that "more than 9,000 people" were still missing.
Maltese rescuers, who support the Libyans in sea searches, discovered hundreds of bodies in a bay, without specifying the exact location, according to Time of Malta.
"There were probably 400, but it's hard to say," Maltese team leader Natalino Bezzina told the newspaper, saying access to the bay was difficult due to strong winds. However, he added that his team was able to help recover dozens of bodies.
A Libyan rescue team on a zodiac claims to have seen "perhaps 600 bodies" at sea off the Om-al-Briket region, about twenty kilometers east of Derna, according to a video on social networks, without specifying whether these were the bodies found by the Maltese.
Faced with the disaster, international mobilization remains strong.
On Saturday, at Benina airport in Benghazi, an Emirati plane and an Iranian aircraft unloaded tons of aid which must be transported to the disaster zone, 300 km further east, noted an AFP journalist .
Tons of aid, including medical supplies, from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have also arrived in the east of the country.
The Italian embassy announced the arrival off the coast of Derna of a ship carrying tents, blankets, two helicopters and bulldozers.
Two French planes landed in the east to “deploy a field hospital” in Derna, said the French ambassador to Libya, Mostafa Mihraje.
The WHO, for its part, announced the arrival in Benghazi of “29 tonnes of medical equipment” from Dubai, “enough to help nearly 250,000 people”.
Other humanitarian organizations such as Islamic Relief and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have warned of the risks of spreading diseases linked to possible water contamination.
Manoelle Carton, medical coordinator of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team in Derna, describes a "chaotic" situation which prevented the census from taking place and identifying the victims.
“Many volunteers from across Libya and abroad are on site. Aid coordination is urgent,” she insists.
The work of rescue and search teams is considerably hampered by the political chaos that has prevailed in the North African country since the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with two rival governments, one in Tripoli (west), recognized by the UN and led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, and the other in the East, affiliated with the camp of powerful Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
After opening an investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy, the Libyan Attorney General, Al-Seddik al-Sour, affirmed that the two dams at the origin of the disaster had had cracks since 1998.
But the work begun in 2010 after years of delay was suspended a few months later in the wake of the Libyan revolution of 2011. It has never resumed since, lamented the prosecutor, promising “firmness” against those responsible.
“A puzzle of dysfunction, incompetence, negligence and corruption is slowly emerging behind the Derna disaster,” noted Wolfram Lacher, Libya specialist at the German Institute for International and Security Policy (SWP).
16/09/2023 20:26:44 - Derna (Libye) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP