More than 5,000 people are presumed dead and another 10,000 are missing after heavy rains in northeastern Libya caused two dams to collapse, sending more water into already flooded areas.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, revealed the numbers of missing persons during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. “The death toll is huge,” she said.
The Interior Ministry of the eastern Libyan government said on Tuesday that at least 5,300 people are believed to have died, the official Libyan News Agency reported. CNN was unable to independently verify the number of dead or missing.
Officials in the city of Tobruk in northeastern Libya said on Tuesday that at least 145 Egyptians were among the dead.
Othman Abdel Jalil, Minister of Health in the Libyan Eastern Administration, told the Libyan Al-Massar TV channel that up to 6,000 people were still missing in the eastern city of Derna, which witnessed the worst of the devastation. He described the situation as “catastrophic” when he toured the city on Monday.
Entire neighborhoods are believed to have been swept away in the city, according to authorities.
Osama Ali, spokesman for emergency and ambulance services, said that hospitals in Derna are no longer fit to operate and the morgues are full.
He told CNN that the bodies were left outside the morgues on the sidewalks.
“There are no direct emergency services. People are currently working to collect rotting bodies,” said Anas Al-Barghathi, a volunteer doctor currently in Derna.
Overturned cars lie among other debris caused by flash floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on September 11, 2023.
Relatives of people who lived in the devastated city of Derna told CNN they were terrified after watching videos of the floods, without any word from their family members.
Aya, a Palestinian woman with cousins in Derna, said she had been unable to reach them since the floods.
“I am really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. All communications seem to be down and I don’t know if they are alive at this point. It is very terrifying to see the videos coming from Derna. We are all terrified,” she said.
Imad Milad, a resident of Tobruk, said that eight of his relatives died in the Dirma floods.
“My sister-in-law Areej and her husband have died. His whole family is dead too. A total of eight people are gone. It is a disaster. It is a disaster. We are praying for better things,” he said on Tuesday.
The rains that swept several cities in northeastern Libya are the result of a very strong low pressure system bringing Catastrophic floods in Greece Last week it moved into the Mediterranean Sea before developing into a tropical cyclone known as a hurricane medicine.
Just like ocean temperatures around the world Soaring off the charts Due to pollution warming the planet, the temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is now much higher than average, which scientists say has led to the heavy rainfall caused by the storm.
“The warmer waters are not only making these storms more intense in terms of rainfall, but also making them more ferocious,” Carsten Hosten, a climatologist and meteorologist at the University of Leipzig in Germany, told the Science Media Center.
An aerial view of flood waters during a strong storm and heavy rains that hit the city of Shahat, Libya, September 11, 2023.
Libya’s vulnerability to extreme weather is heightened 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, led by Abdul Hamid Dabaiba, is based in Tripoli in northwestern Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by Commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, which supports the parliament based in the east. Led by Osama Hamad.
Derna is located about 300 kilometers east of Benghazi, and is under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
Lesley Mabon, lecturer in ecosystems at the Open University, told the Center for Science Media that the country’s complex politics “pose challenges for developing risk communication and risk assessment strategies, coordinating rescue operations, and perhaps also for maintaining critical infrastructure such as dams.” .
The collapse of two dams, sending water rushing towards Derna, caused catastrophic damage, authorities said on Tuesday.
“Three bridges were destroyed. The flowing waters swept away entire neighborhoods, eventually piling into the sea,” said Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesman for the Libyan National Army.
Cars and rubble on a street in Derna, Libya, on Monday, September 11, 2023.
Ali, the official spokesman for the Emergency and Ambulance Authority, said that homes in the valleys were swept away by strong mud currents laden with vehicles and debris.
Ali told CNN that phone lines were down in the city, complicating rescue efforts, with workers unable to enter Derna due to severe damage.
Watch this interactive content on CNN.com
Ali said that the authorities did not anticipate the scale of the disaster.
He added: “Weather conditions, sea water levels and rainfall were not well studied [were not studied]He added: “The winds are fast, and families who could be in the path of the storm and in the valleys were not evacuated.”
He added: “Libya was not prepared for a disaster like this. This level of disaster has never been witnessed before. Ali told Al-Hurra TV: “We admit that there are shortcomings, even though this is the first time we have faced this level of disaster.”
Imhamed Muhammad Kashim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Settlements, vehicles and workplaces were damaged after flooding caused by heavy rains in Misrata, Libya on September 10, 2023.
The storm is sure to be one of the deadliest ever in North Africa.
According to a report by the official Libyan News Agency (Lana), Hamad, head of the Eastern Administration, said that Libya is facing an “unprecedented” situation.
Al-Mismari, the official spokesman for the Libyan National Army, said that the floods affected several cities, including Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Tobruk, Takins, Al-Bayda, and Battah, in addition to the eastern coast all the way to Benghazi. At least 37 residential buildings were swept away.
A boy drags a suitcase through debris in the flood-affected area of Derna, eastern Libya, on September 11, 2023.
Al-Mismari said: “We are not prepared for such a scale of destruction.”
He added that the Libyan authorities need three types of specialized search teams: teams to recover bodies from rugged valleys after they were dispersed by torrents, teams to recover bodies from under the rubble, and teams to recover bodies from the sea.
Tens of thousands of military personnel have been deployed, but many flood-stricken areas remain inaccessible to emergency workers, according to Al-Mismari.
Watch this interactive content on CNN.com
Several countries and human rights groups offered assistance as rescue teams scrambled to find survivors under the rubble and rubble.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the country was facing an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in the wake of the disaster.
Ciaran Donnelly, the International Rescue Committee’s vice president for crisis response, said the challenges in Libya were “enormous, with downed phone lines and severe destruction hampering rescue efforts.” He added that climate change had exacerbated the “steadily deteriorating” situation in the country after years of conflict and instability.
-/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
People inspect an area affected by floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on Monday.
Turkish planes carrying humanitarian aid have arrived in Libya, Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said on Tuesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country will send 168 search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid to Benghazi, according to what Anatolia News Agency reported on Tuesday.
The country’s Civil Protection Department said on Tuesday that Italy would send a civil defense team to assist in rescue operations.
Omar Jarhman – Reuters
People stand on a damaged road when a strong storm and heavy rain hit the city of Shahat, Libya, September 11, 2023.
The US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, announced that its Special Envoy, Ambassador Richard Norland, issued a formal declaration of humanitarian need.
This “will allow for initial funding to be provided by the United States to support relief efforts in Libya.” “We are coordinating with UN partners and Libyan authorities to evaluate how best to target official US assistance.”
The Emirates News Agency reported that the President of the Emirates, Zayed Al Nahyan, directed the sending of relief, search and rescue teams, offering his condolences to those affected by the disaster.
Bulletin / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
A destroyed police car in Derna, Libya, on September 11, 2023.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi sent a military delegation headed by Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces Osama Askar, who arrived in Libya on Tuesday to coordinate the provision of logistical and humanitarian aid.
The storm reached its peak in northeastern Libya on Monday, according to a statement issued by the World Meteorological Organization, citing the Libyan National Meteorological Center.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”