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12 Sep, 2023 22:34

Libya faces catastrophic flooding death toll

The divided country’s eastern government has reported that at least 5,300 people are thought to be dead and 10,000 are missing
Libya faces catastrophic flooding death toll

Massive flash flooding brought on by a fierce Mediterranean storm that wrecked dams and swept whole neighborhoods into the sea as it lashed Libya on Monday has left at least 5,300 people dead, according to the latest government estimate.

State-run media outlet LANA reported on Tuesday that the divided country’s eastern government, based in Tobruk, announced the updated death toll through its interior ministry and pegged the number of people still missing at 10,000. As many as 6,000 people are reportedly unaccounted for in the coastal city of Derna in northeastern Libya alone.

The storm caused two dams to collapse, sending a wall of water rushing through a wadi toward Derna, which had already been inundated with rain. Many of the city’s buildings, including entire neighborhoods, were washed away. Derna has a population of about 125,000.

“Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings,” civil aviation minister Hichem Abu Chkiouat told Reuters on Tuesday. “I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed.”

Hospitals in Derna have reportedly been knocked out of commission, and their morgues are full. Dead bodies are left on sidewalks outside the morgues, Dr. Anas Barghathy, who is doing volunteer work in Derna, told CNN. “There are no firsthand emergency services,” he said. “People are working at the moment to collect the rotting bodies.”

Türkiye’s government has dispatched humanitarian aid and 168 search and rescue teams to Benghazi to help in the relief effort. Italy and France are among the European countries that have pledged assistance to Libya.

The disaster came just three days after another North African country, Morocco, was hammered by an earthquake. The death toll there is over 2,900 and counting, making it the country’s deadliest earthquake since at least 1960.

Recovery efforts could be hindered by Libya’s divided governance. The North African country has been split into two competing administrations since 2014, a division that occurred after the assassination of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi during a NATO-led bombing campaign in 2011. The Government of National Unity (GNU) took power in Tripoli in March 2021 under a UN-backed peace deal. A rival administration, backed by the Libyan parliament, operates from Tobruk. The eastern part of the country was hit hardest by Monday’s storm.