Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Libyan City Floods: Death Toll Surpasses 5,100 as Authorities Struggle to Provide Aid


Massive Flooding in Eastern Libyan City Leaves Thousands Dead and Displaced

A devastating flood caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel has left the eastern Libyan city of Derna in ruins. The flooding, which occurred on Sunday night, has claimed the lives of at least 5,100 people, with the death toll expected to rise further. The city is now facing a humanitarian crisis, with thousands still missing and tens of thousands left homeless.

The storm caused two dams outside the city to collapse, resulting in floodwaters rushing down the Wadi Derna river and through the city center. Waves reached as high as 7 meters (23 feet), causing widespread destruction. Emad Al-Falah, an aid worker from Benghazi, described the scene as bodies were found everywhere, inside houses, in the streets, and even at sea. Entire families have been lost in this tragedy.

Derna, located on a narrow coastal plain on the Mediterranean Sea, is now cut off from most access roads due to the destruction caused by the flooding. Aid teams have managed to reach the city through the remaining usable roads from the south, while authorities are working to repair the coastal access routes. Local emergency workers are relying on existing equipment to carry out search and rescue operations.

Ossama Ali, a spokesman for the Ambulance and Emergency Center in eastern Libya, reported that at least 5,100 deaths have been recorded in Derna, with more than 7,000 people injured. The number of deaths is expected to increase as search teams continue to recover bodies. Additionally, around 9,000 people are still missing, although this number may decrease as communication is restored.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration stated that at least 30,000 people in Derna have been displaced by the flooding. However, the city remains almost inaccessible for humanitarian aid workers. The devastation caused by the storm highlights both its intensity and Libya’s vulnerability due to the country’s divided governance and neglected infrastructure.

International aid has started to arrive in Benghazi, located 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Derna. Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkiye, and the United Arab Emirates have sent rescue teams and aid. President Joe Biden has also announced that the United States will provide emergency funds to relief organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to offer additional support.

The victims of the flooding reflect the diverse workforce attracted to Libya’s oil industry. More than 70 of the deceased in Derna came from a single village in southern Egypt. Funerals have been held for some of the victims, while others have been repatriated to their home countries.

Derna, controlled by military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces, was once a hub for extremist groups following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The city’s current situation adds to the challenges faced by Libya as it strives for stability and recovery.

The immediate focus is on providing aid and support to the affected residents of Derna. Efforts are underway to clear and repair roads to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and heavy equipment. However, the scale of the devastation will require sustained assistance and long-term reconstruction efforts to help the city and its people recover from this disaster.

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