At least 2,000 dead and 10,000 believed missing in Libya as ‘catastrophic’ flooding breaks dams and sweeps away homes
At least 2,000 people have died and 10,000 are believed missing after Storm Daniel dumped so much rain on Libya’s northeast that two dams collapsed sending water flowing into already inundated areas.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, gave the numbers of missing people during a briefing to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. “The death toll is huge,” she said.
Of those who were killed, at least 145 were Egyptian, officials in the northeastern city of Tobruk, in Libya, said on Tuesday.
In the eastern city of Derna, which has seen the worst of the devastation, as many as 6,000 people are missing, Othman Abduljalil, health minister in Libya’s eastern administration, told Libya’s Almasar TV. He called the situation “catastrophic,” when he toured the city on Monday.
Whole neighborhoods are believed to have been washed away in the city, according to authorities.
Hospitals in Derna are no longer operable and the morgues are full, said Osama Aly, an Emergency and Ambulance service spokesperson.
Dead bodies have been left outside the morgues on the sidewalks, he told CNN.
“There are no first-hand emergency services. People are working at the moment to collect the rotting bodies,” said Anas Barghathy, a doctor currently volunteering in Derna.
‘We are all terrified’
Relatives of people who lived in the destroyed city of Derna told CNN they were terrified after seeing videos of the flooding, with no word from their family members.
Ayah, a Palestinian woman with cousins in Derna, said she has been unable to reach them since the floods.
’m really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. It seems all communications are down and I don’t know if they are alive at this point. It is very terrifying watching the videos coming out of Derna. We are all terrified,” she said.
Emad Milad, a resident of Tobrok, said eight of his relatives died in the flooding in Derma.
“My wife Areej’s sister and her husband both passed away. His whole family is also dead. A total of eight people are all gone. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster. We are praying for better things,” he said on Tuesday.
‘Ferocious’ weather conditions
The rain, which has swept across several cities in Libya’s north-east, is the result of a very strong low-pressure system that brought catastrophic flooding to Greece last week and moved into the Mediterranean before developing into a tropical-like cyclone known as a medicane.
The deadly storm comes in an unprecedented year of climate disasters and record-breaking weather extremes, from devastating wildfires to oppressive heat.
Just as ocean temperatures around the world soar off the charts due to planet-warming pollution, the temperature of the Mediterranean is well-above average, which scientists say fueled the storm’s heavy rainfall.
“The warmer water does not only fuel those storms in terms of rainfall intensity, it also makes them more ferocious,” Karsten Haustein, climate scientist and meteorologist at Leipzig University in Germany, told the Science Media Center.
Libya’s vulnerability to extreme weather is increased by its long-running political conflict, which has seen a decade-long power struggle between two rival administrations.
The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, sits in Tripoli in northwest Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), who support the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.
Derna, which lies some 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
The country’s complex politics “pose challenges for developing risk communication and hazard assessment strategies, coordinating rescue operations, and also potentially for maintenance of critical infrastructure such as dams,” Leslie Mabon, lecturer in Environmental Systems at The Open University, told the Science Media Center.
The collapse of two dams under the pressure of flooding, which sent water rushing towards Derna, has caused catastrophic damage, authorities said Tuesday.
“Three bridges were destroyed. The flowing water carried away entire neighborhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea,” said Ahmed Mismari, spokesperson for the LNA.