libya in crisis storms ravage derna, thousands feared dead

Libya in Crisis: Storms Ravage Derna, Thousands Feared Dead

On Wednesday, residents of the city of Derna in eastern Libya counted their dead in the hundreds, and they feared a very terrible toll as a result of two dams breaking under the pressure of torrential rains, releasing tremendous floodwaters that swept away everything in their path and killed thousands of people.

Because it is so difficult to get inside this town of 100,000 people, there is still some uncertainty regarding the number of people who were killed or are missing as a result of the accident. According to the officials, there could have been several thousand people who died or went missing.

According to images posted on social media, roads were closed, landslides and floods hindered rescue workers from reaching the people, and the community had to make do with rudimentary tools to extricate the bodies that were buried in mass graves by the dozen.

Despite the efforts of the government to restore cell phone and internet networks, Derna and the surrounding villages are virtually shut off from the rest of the world. Both the authorities in the east and their adversaries in the west are using the term “thousands” to describe the number of fatalities.

Osama Ali, a spokesman for Libya’s “Emergency and Rescue Service” under the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, told AFP on Tuesday that the floods had left “more than 2,300 dead” and about 7,000 injured in Derna, and that more than 5,000 people remain missing. Osama Ali made his remarks in reference to the havoc that the flooding in Derna had caused.

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A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimated a “huge” death toll, which might reach into the thousands, with 10,000 people still missing. The number of fatalities could go into the thousands. Since the huge earthquake that rocked the eastern town of al-Marj in 1963, this is the most catastrophic natural disaster to strike the Cyrenaica region in the eastern part of Libya.

Storm Daniel made landfall on Libya’s eastern coast on Sunday afternoon, wreaking havoc on the city of Benghazi before moving inland and wreaking havoc on the cities of the Jabal al-Akhdar (northeast), including Shahat (Cyrene), al-Marj, al-Bayda, and Soussa (Apollonia), but above all Derna, which was the city that suffered the most damage.

The two dams on Wadi Derna, which had been holding back the floods of the wadi that runs through the city, both collapsed late on Sunday night.

Witnesses told the media in Libya that they heard a “huge explosion” before violent torrents hit the city and overflowed the riverbanks, washing bridges and entire neighbourhoods into the Mediterranean Sea along with their people.

As early as Tuesday, the sea, which had become the colour of muck, began to wash up bodies that had been submerged for some time. Photographs of a military aircraft collecting bodies from a beach that is littered with rubble and bits of iron were broadcast on Tuesday by Libyan media outlets. The photographs show the chopper operating on the beach.

People are rallying to assist the victims in Libya and other countries across the world, even if aid is only trickling in piecemeal at this point.

Relief convoys are being sent to the western city of Derna from the western area of Tripolitania. Abdelhamid Dbeibah’s administration in Tripoli has announced that it will attempt to promptly restore electricity after it was turned off by sending 87 doctors, two air ambulances, a helicopter, a team of rescue personnel and search dogs, and technicians from the national energy company.

According to the authorities, search and rescue teams that had been dispatched from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have also arrived in eastern Libya.