DERNA, Libya (AP) — Search teams combed the streets, destroyed buildings and even the sea Wednesday to search for bodies in a Libyan coastal city where the collapse of two dams caused a massive flood that killed… At least 5,100 people.
The city of Derna, located on the Mediterranean Sea, is facing difficulties in obtaining assistance after floods on Sunday evening washed away most of the roads leading to it. Aid workers who managed to reach the city described the devastation in the city centre, with thousands still missing and tens of thousands homeless.
“Bodies are everywhere, inside the houses, in the streets, in the sea. Everywhere you go, you find dead men, women and children,” Imad Al-Falah, an aid worker from Benghazi, said by phone from Derna. “Entire families have been lost.”
The Mediterranean storm “Daniel” caused deadly floods on Sunday in many towns in eastern Libya, but The city of Derna was the most affected. Two dams in the mountains overlooking the city collapsed, sending floodwaters flowing down the Wadi Derna River and into the city centre, sweeping away entire city buildings.
Emergency officials said up to a quarter of the city was gone.
Yann Fredes, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Libya, told France 24 that the waves had risen to 7 metres.
Teacher Muhammad Derna said that he, his family, and his neighbors rushed to the roof of the residential building, astonished by the volume of flowing water. He said it reached the second floor of many buildings. They watched people below, including women and children, being swept away.
“They were screaming: Help, help,” he said by phone from a field hospital in Derna. “It was like a Hollywood horror movie.”
Derna is located on a narrow coastal plain, under steep mountains. The only two usable roads from the south take a winding route through the mountains.
The collapse of bridges over the river divided the city center, further hampering movement.
Al-Falah said that search teams searched the destroyed residential buildings and recovered bodies floating off the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
Osama Ali, spokesman for the ambulance center in eastern Libya, said that at least 5,100 deaths had been recorded in Derna, along with about 100 others elsewhere in eastern Libya. More than 7,000 people were injured in the city.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in eastern Libya estimated the death toll in Derna at more than 5,300, according to the government news agency.
Ali said the number of deaths is likely to rise because teams are still collecting bodies. At least 9,000 people are missing, but this number may decrease as communications are restored.
The United Nations International Organization for Migration said that at least 30,000 people in Derna were displaced due to the floods.
The storm hit other areas in eastern Libya, including the towns of Al-Bayda, Sousse and Al-Marj. Ali said that rescuers recovered at least 150 bodies on Wednesday from the sea off Al Bayda, bringing the death toll in the town to about 200 people.
Stunning devastation He pointed to the severity of the storm, but also to Libya’s weakness. The country is divided between two competing governments, one in the east and the other in the west, and the result has been neglect of infrastructure in many areas.
Ahmed Abdullah, one of the survivors who joined the search and rescue efforts, said that they were placing the bodies in the hospital yard before transporting them for burial in mass graves in the only intact cemetery in Derna.
“The situation is indescribable. Entire families died in this disaster, some of them were swept into the sea,” Abdullah said over the phone.
Derna is located 250 kilometers east of Benghazi, where international aid began arriving on Tuesday.
Neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as Turkey, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, sent rescue teams and aid. The UK and German governments have also sent aid, including blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tents, water filters and generators.
US President Joe Biden also said that the United States will send money to relief organizations and coordinate with the Libyan authorities and the United Nations to provide additional support.
The authorities transferred hundreds of bodies to morgues in nearby towns. The local medical center reported that more than 300 people, including 84 Egyptians, were taken to the morgue in the city of Tobruk, 169 kilometers (105 miles) east of Derna.
The lists of casualties reflect how Libya, despite its turmoil, has always been a magnet for workers from across the region because of its oil industry.
More than 70 of those killed in Derna came from one village in southern Egypt, Al-Sharif. On Wednesday morning, hundreds participated in a mass funeral in the village for 64 people.
Rabie Hanafi said his large family lost 16 men in the floods, and 12 of them were buried on Wednesday. Another funeral was held for four others in a town in the northern Nile Delta.
Among those killed in Libya was the family of Saleh Sariya, a Palestinian originally from the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, who had lived in Derna for decades. His nephew, Muhammad Sariya, said that the 62-year-old man, his wife and two daughters were all killed when their house in Derna was swept away by water.
The four were buried in Derna. because of Armed clashes continue in Ain al-HilwehMuhammad said that the family there was unable to hold a meeting to receive condolences from friends and neighbors.
Derna is located about 900 kilometers east of the capital, Tripoli, and is under the control of the forces of the powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is allied with the government of eastern Libya. The rival government in western Libya, based in Tripoli, is allied with other armed groups.
Derna was once a hub for extremist groups in the chaotic years following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.