Unprecedented floods have claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people in Libya. With at least 9,000 people missing, officials believe the death toll will rise.
Search teams are combing the streets, damaged buildings and even the sea in search of bodies.
“This entire city has been destroyed,” said Muhammad Salem, a resident of Derna, the city most affected by the floods. “There are still victims under the rubble, some in the sea.”
He continued: “There are bodies buried in mass graves because the graves are full.”
Health officials fear an outbreak of the disease as a large number of bodies have not been recovered. The city’s mayor says up to 20,000 people may have been swept away by floodwaters.
The tragedy unfolded when Mediterranean Storm Daniel hit the Libyan coast on Sunday night, causing devastating floods. Two dams in the mountains above Derna collapsed, sending raging waters flowing through the city, sweeping away entire neighborhoods.
Emergency officials reported that flooding wiped out a quarter of the city. Aid workers reported that thousands were still missing, and that tens of thousands were without homes.
Now, residents are appealing for international help.
Abdel Mawla Saqr, a resident of Derna, said, “The United Nations, relief agencies and the World Health Organization must intervene to provide aid to our city.” “The state alone cannot handle this.”
He continued: “We have to be clear about this; our resources are limited.” “Many have come forward to help what they can, but we are looking for help from organizations like the United Nations.”
Flood victims say the only warning were powerful explosions when dams collapsed outside Derna. The severe floods demonstrated the strength of the storm, but they also revealed Libya’s weaknesses.
Rival governments divide the country, leading to nationwide neglect of infrastructure. Local media reported that the dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s and had not been maintained for years.