Libya floods wipe out quarter of city, 10,000 missing
Libya has been plunged into chaos as torrential rains, triggered by a powerful Mediterranean storm named Daniel, wreaked havoc across the country. Reports indicate that more than 1,000 people have tragically lost their lives, with an estimated 10,000 individuals currently missing and presumed to be in grave danger.
Derna, an eastern coastal city with a population of approximately 125,000, bore the brunt of this catastrophic event. Journalists from Reuters witnessed a city in ruins, as neighborhoods were obliterated, buildings washed away, and streets transformed into muddy rivers littered with debris. The catastrophe was compounded by the breach of dams, leading to widespread destruction.
The grim reality on the ground is depicted by the recovery of over 1,000 bodies in Derna alone. Distraught residents gathered outside overwhelmed hospitals, desperately searching for their loved ones among the shrouded casualties.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation in the eastern administration, described the dire situation, stating, “Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings.” He went on to emphasize that a quarter of the city had seemingly vanished, with numerous buildings reduced to rubble.
Abu Chkiouat’s grim assessment extended beyond Derna, as he anticipated the nation’s death toll could exceed 2,500, given the rising number of missing individuals.
Storm Daniel’s destructive path extended beyond Derna, impacting other eastern cities, including Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city. Tamer Ramadan, head of a delegation from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, warned of a “huge” death toll.
According to Ramadan, the number of missing individuals has surged to a staggering 10,000, raising concerns about their safety and well-being.
International aid efforts have been initiated, with countries like Turkey dispatching search and rescue teams, boats, generators, and food to assist Libya in this time of crisis. United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths confirmed the mobilization of emergency teams to provide support on the ground.
The human toll of this disaster is immeasurable, with residents of Derna and beyond grappling with unimaginable loss. Mostafa Salem, who tragically lost 30 relatives, shared the harrowing experience of people caught unaware as the floodwaters rapidly rose.
As Libya reels from this catastrophe, the nation’s political divisions and weakened public services have compounded the challenges of responding to this disaster. Pope Francis and leaders worldwide have expressed deep sorrow for the loss of life and destruction witnessed in Libya.
The tragic flooding in Derna serves as a stark reminder of the need for immediate action to safeguard against future calamities. Hydrologist Abdelwanees A. R. Ashoor had previously warned about the threat of flooding in Derna, emphasizing the importance of maintaining dams and riverbeds.
As rescue and relief efforts continue, Libya faces an arduous journey towards recovery. The displacement of tens of thousands of people adds to the urgent need for humanitarian aid and support to help those affected by this unprecedented disaster.