Maghreb A rescue team finds hundreds of bodies on a beach in Derna (Libya) devastated by floods

A Maltese rescue team found hundreds of bodies on Friday on a beach in the Libyan city of Derna affected by floods, the Malta Civil Protection Department reported this Saturday

Maghreb A rescue team finds hundreds of bodies on a beach in Derna (Libya) devastated by floods

A Maltese rescue team found hundreds of bodies on Friday on a beach in the Libyan city of Derna affected by floods, the Malta Civil Protection Department reported this Saturday. "There were probably about 400, but it's difficult to say," Natalino Bezzina, who manages the Maltese team, told the Times of Malta newspaper. This country deployed a team of 72 first responders from the army and the Civil Protection department on Wednesday.

The discovery was made by a four-person team who first found a group of seven bodies, including those of three children, inside a seaside cave. The bodies are believed to have been swept away by heavy flooding after rains from Storm Daniel caused two dams to collapse, washing away a quarter of the coastal town.

Bezzina told Maltese media that a small team located the cave which was half submerged and saw bodies inside. As they continued the search, boats joined them. They finally found a small bay filled with debris and several hundred bodies.

Hopes of finding survivors are fading six days after floods left thousands dead, as humanitarian groups warn of the danger of disease and problems delivering aid.

The waterspout that fell last weekend in the port city burst two dams and caused a dazzling flood that destroyed everything in its path: buildings, vehicles, people... The flood, comparable to a tsunami of several meters, left a landscape of desolation, with much of the city devastated as if a strong earthquake had occurred, said an AFP photographer. Entire buildings were washed away. Others are half destroyed, with vehicles wedged into their walls.

Before the catastrophe, the city had 100,000 inhabitants. "At least 10,000" are missing, according to the UN, although the exact number of victims is still unknown. Officials of the authority that controls the eastern part of Libya, which is not the government recognized by the UN, speak of contradictory figures. The Ministry of the Interior in this sector reported at least 3,800 deaths.

On the ground, the situation is "chaotic", which makes it difficult to count and identify the victims, explained Manoelle Carton, medical coordinator of a team from Doctors Without Borders.

"Numerous volunteers from all over Libya and abroad are on site. The coordination of aid is urgent," insisted this aid worker, concerned about the proliferation of "water-related diseases."

The NGO Islamic Relief expressed the same sentiment, warning of a "second humanitarian crisis" due to the "increasing risk of water-borne diseases and shortages of food, shelter and medicine."

"In conditions like these, diseases can spread quickly because water systems are contaminated," warned its deputy director Salah Aboulgasem. "The city smells like death. Almost everyone has lost someone they know," he said.

Rescuers from the Libyan Red Crescent still "continue to search for possible survivors and remove bodies from under the rubble in the most affected neighborhoods," explained its spokesperson Taufik Chokri.

Other teams are trying to deliver aid to families in the eastern part of the city, the hardest hit, but also inaccessible by road, he said.

Search and rescue efforts are hampered by the political chaos that has prevailed in the North African country since the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

There are currently two opposing governments: one in Tripoli, recognized by the UN and led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, and another in the east, controlled by the influential Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Stéphanie Williams, a US diplomat and former UN representative in Libya, called for urgent international intervention and proposed creating "a joint national/international mechanism to oversee funds" for aid.

In a message on X (formerly Twitter), Williams attacked the Libyan leaders for "using the pretext of sovereignty" to direct aid operations "according to their interests."

Marshal Haftar's spokesman, Ahmad al Mesmari, acknowledged "enormous needs for reconstruction" during a news conference Friday in Benghazi, the large city in eastern Libya and the birthplace of the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

In the rival camp, Prime Minister Dbeibah estimated this week that the absence of adequate development plans in the east and "usury" contributed to the catastrophe. "It is one of the consequences of quarrels, wars and waste of funds," he said.

The UN launched an urgent appeal to raise $71 million and its head of humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, asked for the coordination of both rival governments to mitigate the catastrophe.