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Libya: Authorities recover hundreds of bodies amid unprecedented flooding, 700 people buried in Derna

Over 10,000 people are missing since the Mediterranean storm Daniel wreaked havoc in eastern Libya and the death toll is likely to rise.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Tripoli Published on: September 12, 2023 17:53 IST
Entire neighbourhoods have been swept away in floods in
Image Source : AP Entire neighbourhoods have been swept away in floods in eastern Libya

Libya floods: As devastating floods caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel wreak havoc in eastern Libya, rescue teams have recovered hundreds of bodies from the rubble of the coastal city of Derna as 10,000 more remained missing, according to a humanitarian agency.

Derna bore the maximum brunt of the flash floods caused by the storm, as dams broke due to incessant rainfall and entire neighbourhoods were swept away. Tamer Ramadan, Libya's envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the death toll was "huge and likely to increase further" and 10,000 people were missing.

At least 700 people have been buried in Derna as rescue teams struggled to recover more bodies from the deluge, as per officials. "The situation is catastrophic. The bodies are still lying on the ground in many parts (of the city). Hospitals are filled with bodies. And there are areas we have yet to reach," said eastern Libya's health minister Othman Abduljaleel.

Around 2,300 people have been estimated to be killed due to unprecedented flooding. The conflict between two rival administrations in the eastern and western parts of the country is believed to be one of the prime reasons for the dilapidated and inadequate infrastructure.

Horrifying situation in eastern Libya

Citizens of Derna shared videos on social media depicting residential blocks being wiped and buildings collapsing into mud. Abduljaleel said that many bodies are still under the rubble in city's neighbourhoods or washed away to the sea.

“The situation was more significant and worse than we expected. An international intervention is needed,” he said, as rescue teams, military personnel and government workers went all out with inflatable boats, excavators and other equipment to retrieve the dead.

According to the government, hundreds of people have been displaced in other towns like Bayda, Susa, Marj and Shahatt. At least 50 people have been confirmed dead in Bayda. The main hospital there was flooded and patients had to be evacuated.

The Health Ministry in Tripoli said that a plane 14 tons of medical equipment, drugs and body bags, along with health care workers were headed towards Benghazi on Tuesday. Countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkiye, and the United Arab Emirates have also promised humanitarian assistance and teams to help with rescue efforts.

Ossama Hamad, the Prime Minister of the east Libya government, declared Derna a disaster zone after heavy rainfall and floods destroyed much of the city which is located in the delta of the small Wadi Derna on Libya's east coast. The prime minister also announced three days of mourning and ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-staff.

The political situation in Libya

Since a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has lacked a central government and the resulting lawlessness has meant dwindling investment in the country's roads and public services and also minimal regulation of private building. With the rival governments ruling in the east and the west, both are backed by militias.

Derna is located 900 km east of Libyan capital Tripoli, and is controlled by the forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter, in alliance with the eastern Libyan government. Much of Libya was built under the occupation of Italy in the early 20th century.

The coastal city was once a hub for extremist groups in a chaotic situation following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Eastern Libya flooding: 2,000 feared dead, PM Hamad announces three-day mourning

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