Libya Floods: Over 5,000 feared dead, thousands are missing | World News

Emergency responders have unearthed over 1,500 bodies amidst the wreckage of Derna, a city in eastern Libya, following devastating floods caused by the breach of dams and the engulfing of entire neighborhoods.
With approximately 10,000 people still unaccounted for, the death toll in Derna alone has exceeded 5,300, according to Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesperson for the East Libya Interior Ministry, contrasting earlier estimates from Derna’s ambulance authority, which put the toll at 2,300.
The catastrophic impact of Mediterranean storm Daniel not only highlights the storm’s ferocity but also underscores the vulnerability of a nation ravaged by more than a decade of chaos. Libya remains divided by competing governments, one in the east and the other in the west, resulting in neglect of infrastructure in many regions.
Images portrayed a grim scene with numerous bodies covered by blankets in one hospital yard and a mass grave laden with bodies. As of Tuesday evening, half of the more than 1,500 recovered corpses had been buried, as per the health minister for eastern Libya. Nonetheless, the actual death toll is expected to rise into the thousands, with Tamer Ramadan, Libya’s envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, suggesting that at least 10,000 people remain missing and over 40,000 have been displaced.
Comparing the situation in Libya to the recent earthquake in Morocco, Ramadan emphasized the profound devastation. The catastrophe struck Derna and other parts of eastern Libya on Sunday night. As the storm relentlessly pounded the coast, the collapse of dams outside Derna unleashed flash floods along Wadi Derna, a river coursing through the city from the mountains to the sea.
According to the AP report, one resident, Ahmed Abdalla, described the wall of water as having “erased everything in its way.” Videos shared by residents online depicted extensive areas of mud and wreckage where neighborhoods on both riverbanks had been swept away. Multi-story apartment buildings previously set back from the river saw their facades torn off, and concrete floors crumbled. Vehicles carried away by the flood were left piled atop one another.
‘Never felt as frightened’
According to a Reuters story, in Derna, Mostafa Salem, 39, said he had lost 30 of his relatives. “Most people were sleeping. Nobody was ready.”
Karim al-Obaidi, a passenger on a plane from Tripoli to the east, told Reuters: “I have never felt as frightened as I do now … I lost contact with all my family, friends and neighbours.”
The National Meteorological Center of Libya noted that it had issued early warnings for the “extreme weather event” of Storm Daniel 72 hours before it occurred, and notified government authorities via email and media, urging them to take preventive measures. Bayda, a city in Libya, recorded a record-breaking 414.1 millimeters (16.3 inches) of rain from Sunday to Monday.
Local emergency responders, including troops, government personnel, volunteers, and residents, tirelessly sifted through debris in search of the deceased on Tuesday. Inflatable boats were also deployed to retrieve bodies from the water. Many bodies were believed to be trapped under rubble or swept into the Mediterranean Sea, according to eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel.
Abduljaleel remarked that the destruction was beyond the capacity of Derna and the government, and external help was desperately needed. Red Crescent teams from various parts of Libya arrived in Derna on Tuesday morning, but additional excavators and equipment were still en route.
While flooding is not uncommon during Libya’s rainy season, rarely has it caused such extensive destruction. Questions arose about how the rains managed to breach two dams outside Derna—whether due to poor maintenance or the sheer volume of rainfall.
Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist and meteorologist at Leipzig University, suggested that Daniel deposited 440 millimeters (15.7 inches) of rain on eastern Libya in a short span, possibly overwhelming the infrastructure and causing dam failure. He added that human-induced increases in water surface temperatures likely intensified the storm.
Derna had long suffered from neglect by local authorities, with maintenance being consistently postponed, according to Jalel Harchaoui, an associate fellow specializing in Libya at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London. Factionalism also played a role, as Derna was under the control of Islamic militant groups for several years, leading to a strained relationship with the eastern Libya government led by military commander Khalifa Hifter.
Hifter’s government, based in Benghazi, is embroiled in a bitter rivalry with the western government in Tripoli, with each receiving support from powerful militias and foreign nations. Despite this divide, the initial response to the disaster saw some cooperation, with the Tripoli-based government sending aid to Benghazi and allocating funds for reconstruction in eastern towns. Humanitarian aid and rescue teams from Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates also arrived in Benghazi, and several other countries pledged assistance.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch Libya Daniel Storm: Over 5,000 presumed dead and 10,000 missing in Libyan catastrophe

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