Libya floods: Death toll soars to 11,300, over 10,000 listed missing

World Saturday 16/September/2023 17:13 PM
Libya floods: Death toll soars to 11,300, over 10,000 listed missing

Derna : The death toll in Derna, a coastal city in Libya, has risen to 11,300 as search efforts continue in the wake of a catastrophic flood caused by the breaching of two dams after heavy rains, Al Jazeera reported citing The Libyan Red Crescent.

Another 10,100 individuals are listed as missing in the Mediterranean city, said Marie el-Drese, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya. The previous death toll estimate from health authorities for Derna was 5,500. About 170 additional individuals were killed by the storm elsewhere in the nation.

The figure could reach 20,000, according to Derna's mayor, Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, given how many neighbourhoods were affected.

On Sunday night, flooding in Derna carried away entire families, exposing vulnerabilities in the oil-rich nation, which has been embroiled in strife ever since a 2011 uprising that deposed long-reigning autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

One injured victim described how he and his mother were swept away during the late-night experience before they both managed to crawl into an empty building downstream. "Within seconds the water level suddenly rose," he recalled.

“The water was rising with us until we got to the fourth floor,” the unidentified man said from his hospital bed, in testimony published by the Benghazi Medical Center.

“We could hear screams. From the window, I saw cars and bodies being carried away by the water. It lasted an hour or an hour and a half – but for us, it felt like a year.”

More than 3,000 deaths were reported in Derna, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq al-Kharaz.

“The catastrophe is massive and as a result, access to many areas is not possible. Many areas suffered total damage. Many dead bodies are still under the debris, others washed away into the sea,” al-Kharaz told Al Jazeera.

IFRC said on Friday that emergency workers sifting through the mud and rubble are still hopeful of finding survivors.

Tamar Ramadan, head of the group’s rescue effort in the North African country said, “The hope is there, is always there, to find people alive.”

Access to Derna is still very difficult due to the destruction of roads and bridges as well as the cutting of phone and electricity connections to large areas where at least 30,000 people are now without a place to live.

The United Nations said, “With the collapse of most roads, the municipality [of Derna] is urging relevant authorities to establish a sea corridor for emergency relief and evacuations”.

Petteri Taalas, UN’s World Meteorological Organisation chief said that many fatalities could have been avoided if warning was issued earlier and emergency management systems had functioned properly in the war-scarred country, Al Jazeera reported.

With better coordination, “they could have issued the warnings and the emergency management forces would have been able to carry out the evacuation of the people, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties,” said Taalas, according to Al Jazeera.