Catastrophic Libyan Floods Leave Thousands Dead and 10,000 Missing in Their Wake


On Tuesday, rescue crews discovered more than 1,500 victims in the ruins of Libya’s eastern city of Derna, and the death toll was expected to rise to 5,000 as floodwaters broke through dams and wiped away entire neighborhoods.

The unexpected mortality and damage caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel revealed not just the storm’s ferocity, but also the fragility of a nation ripped apart by anarchy for more than a decade. The country is divided by competing administrations, one in the east and one in the west, and as a result, infrastructure in many parts has been neglected.

On Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the accident, outside assistance was only beginning to arrive in Derna. Many access roads to the seaside city of 89,000 people were damaged or destroyed by the floods.

Several victims were seen covered in blankets in the yard of one hospital. Another image depicted a mass cemetery overflowing with bodies. More than 1,500 bodies had been gathered, with half of them buried as of Tuesday evening, according to the health minister for eastern Libya

At least one authority estimated the death toll at above 5,000. According to the state-run news agency, , a spokesman for the east Libya interior ministry, over 5,300 people have killed in Derna alone. The ambulance authorities in Derna stated early Tuesday that 2,300 people had died.

However, the death toll is likely to be greater, according to Tamer Ramadan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Libya ambassador. He told a United Nations meeting in Geneva via videoconference from Tunisia that at least 10,000 individuals were unaccounted for. He then stated that almost 40,000 persons had been relocated.

The situation in Libya is “as devastating as the situation in Morocco,” Ramadan remarked, alluding to Friday night’s fatal earthquake near Marrakesh.

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U.N. Secretary-General Shows Solidarity with Libya, Promises Urgent Humanitarian Aid 

On Tuesday, rescue crews discovered more than 1,500 victims in the ruins of Libya’s eastern city of Derna, and the death toll was expected to rise to 5,000 as floodwaters broke through dams and wiped away entire neighborhoods.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed solidarity with the Libyan people and stated that the UN “is working with local, national, and international partners to get urgently needed humanitarian assistance to those in affected areas,” according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

On Sunday night, the destruction descended on Derna and other sections of eastern Libya. Residents of Derna claimed they heard tremendous booms as the storm hit the shore and knew dams beyond the city had fallen. Flash floods swept down Wadi Derna, a river that flows from the highlands through the city and into the sea.

According to Ahmed Abdalla, a local, the wall of water “erased everything in its path.”

Residents’ videos shared online revealed enormous areas of muck and destruction where the river’s rushing waves had washed away neighborhoods on both banks. Facades of multi-story apartment complexes that were originally set back from the river were pulled away, and concrete floors fell. Cars swept away by the water were heaped on top of one another.

The National Meteorological Center of Libya announced Tuesday that it gave early warnings for Storm Daniel, a “extreme weather event,” 72 hours before it hit, and warned all governmental entities by e-mail and media… “urging them to take preventive measures.” From Sunday to Monday, Bayda received a record 414.1 millimeters (16.3 inches) of rain.

Local emergency responders, including military, government personnel, volunteers, and citizens, sifted through wreckage on Tuesday in search of the deceased. Inflatable boats were also utilized to recover bodies from the water.

Many dead were reported to be buried beneath rubble or swept out into the Mediterranean Sea, according to Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister for eastern Libya.

“We were stunned by the amount of destruction… the tragedy is very significant, and beyond the capacity of Derna and the government,” Abduljaleel said by phone from Derna to The Associated Press.

On Tuesday morning, Red Crescent crews from other regions of Libya arrived in Derna, but more excavators and other equipment had yet to arrive.

Flooding occurs frequently in Libya during the wet season, although seldom with this much devastation. A crucial concern was whether the rains were able to break through two dams outside Derna due to inadequate maintenance or the sheer volume of rain.

According to Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist and meteorologist at Leipzig University, Daniel poured 440 millimeters (15.7 inches) of rain over eastern Libya in a short period of time.

“The infrastructure could probably not cope,” he said, adding that human-caused spikes in ocean surface temperatures likely contributed to the storm’s ferocity.

Derna has been ignored by local officials for many years. “Even the aspect of maintenance was simply missing.” “Everything kept getting pushed back,” said Jalel Harchaoui, an associate scholar at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London who specializes in Libya.

Factionalism is also a factor. For many years, Islamic extremist organizations ruled over Derna. After months of hard urban battle, military leader Khalifa Hifter, the strongman of the east Libyan government, conquered the city in 2019.

Since then, the eastern administration has been wary of the city and has worked to exclude its citizens from decision-making, according to Harchaoui. “This mistrust could be disastrous during the upcoming post-disaster period,” he said.

Hifter’s eastern administration, situated in the city of Benghazi, is at odds with the western government, based in Tripoli. Each is supported by formidable militias as well as international forces. Egypt, Russia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates favor Hifter, while Turkey, Qatar, and Italy back the west Libya authority.

Nonetheless, the first reaction to the calamity resulted in some crossing of the division.

The western Libyan government, located in Tripoli, dispatched a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies and health staff to Benghazi. It also stated that it has set aside $412 million for rehabilitation in Derna and other eastern municipalities. Airplanes delivering humanitarian assistance and rescue crews from Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates landed in Benghazi on Tuesday. To organize help, Egypt’s military chief of staff met with Hifter. Germany, France, and Italy all stated they were sending rescuers and help.

Given the realities on the ground, it was unclear how fast supplies could be delivered to Derna, 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Benghazi. Derna municipal administrator Ahmed Amdourd has called for a maritime corridor to transfer relief and supplies.

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President Biden Announces Emergency Aid and Collaborative Efforts to Support Libya

President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday that the US is providing emergency cash to relief agencies and is working with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to give more assistance.

“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in Libya’s devastating floods,” he added.

The storm also affected other parts of eastern Libya, notably the town of Bayda, where 50 people were killed. According to footage released by the Medical Center of Bayda on Facebook, the main hospital was inundated and patients had to be evacuated.

According to the administration, other towns that suffered included Susa, Marj, and Shahatt. Hundreds of people were uprooted and sought refuge in schools and other government facilities in Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya.

Northeast Libya is one of the most fertile and lush areas in the nation. According to the World Bank, the Jabal al-Akhdar region, which includes Bayda, Marj, and Shahatt, has one of the highest average annual rainfalls in the country.


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Source: Huff Post

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