The city of Derna has buried thousands of people in mass graves as officials claimed more than 5,100 people were killed after Tsunami-like water entered the coastal town on Sunday. However, the mayor of the port city Derna estimates that 18,000 to 20,000 people died.
Speaking to al-Arabiya TV, mayor Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi said his estimate was based on the number of districts completely destroyed by the flood water. During the conversation, he said that a large number of people would be required to pull out the bodies from the debris.
The deluge swept away entire families on Sunday night and exposed vulnerabilities in the oil-rich country that has been mired in conflict since its 2011 uprising. Health officials have confirmed 5,100 deaths and say 9,000 people are still missing. Here’s a look at the latest developments.
WHAT HAPPENED IN LIBYA?
Daniel, an unusually strong Mediterranean storm, caused deadly flooding in towns across eastern Libya, but the worst hit was Derna. As the storm pounded the coast Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters washed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.
The startling devastation reflected the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. The country is divided by rival governments — one in the east, the other in the west — and one result has been widespread neglect of infrastructure. The dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s and have not been maintained for years, local media reported.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
Derna has begun burying its dead, mostly in mass graves, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel.
More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, the minister said, while another 2,000 were still being processed. He said most of the dead were buried in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
Abdul Jaleel said rescue teams were still searching wrecked buildings in the city centre, and divers were combing seawater off Derna.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED?
Health authorities have put the death toll in Derna at 5,100 as of Wednesday. The number of deaths was likely to climb as searches continued, and at least 9,000 people are still missing, said Ossama Ali, a spokesman for an ambulance centre in eastern Libya.
Local officials suggested that the death toll could be much higher than announced. In comments to the Saudi-owned Al Arabia television station, Derna Mayor Abdel-Raham al-Ghaithi said the tally could climb to 20,000, given the number of neighbourhoods that were washed out.
An official with the U.N.’s World Health Organization in Libya said the fatalities could reach 7,000, given the number of people who were still missing. “The numbers could surprise and shock all of us,” said the official, who was not authorized to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The storm also killed around 170 people in other parts of eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz and Marj, the health minister said.
(With inputs from agency)