Devastating Floods in Eastern Libya, Thousands Feared Dead


New Delhi — A catastrophic deluge caused by Mediterranean Storm Daniel has inflicted widespread destruction across coastal towns in eastern Libya. Entire neighborhoods have been swept away, homes wrecked, and the death toll is estimated to be as high as 2,000 people, according to Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government.

The heaviest devastation was witnessed in Derna, a city that has struggled with inadequate infrastructure due to years of turmoil in Libya. The country remains divided between two rival administrations, one in the east and one in the west, each supported by militias and foreign governments.

As of late Monday, the confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61, as reported by health authorities. However, this count does not include Derna, which has become inaccessible due to the catastrophe. Many of the thousands who are missing are believed to have been carried away by the raging waters.

Distressing videos shared by residents of Derna online depict massive destruction, with entire residential areas obliterated along a river running through the city center. Multi-story apartment buildings, once safely distant from the river, have partially collapsed into the mud.

Prime Minister Ossama Hamad stated in a phone interview with al-Masar television that an estimated 2,000 people are feared dead in Derna, and thousands more are missing. Derna has been declared a disaster zone.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the east-based Libyan armed forces, held a news conference and reported that the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000, with between 5,000 and 6,000 people reported missing. Al-Mosmari attributed this catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, resulting in a lethal flash flood.

Libya has grappled with a lack of central governance since the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi. This lawlessness has led to minimal investment in infrastructure and public services, as well as limited regulation of private construction. The nation remains divided between competing governments in the east and west, both backed by various militias.

Derna, once controlled by extremist groups, was liberated from their influence in 2018 by forces loyal to the east-based government. However, the city’s infrastructure remained vulnerable.

Additional reports indicate at least 46 people lost their lives in the eastern town of Bayda, seven in the coastal town of Susa, seven more in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, and one person in the town of Marj. Tragically, the Libyan Red Crescent reported the loss of three of its workers while assisting families in Derna, and many more workers remain missing.

Local media sources describe the situation in Derna as catastrophic, with no electricity or means of communication.

Essam Abu Zeriba, the interior minister of the east Libyan government, expressed grave concern, stating that more than 5,000 people were expected to be missing in Derna. Many victims were swept toward the Mediterranean.

Georgette Gagnon, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya, emphasized the severe impact of Storm Daniel on the country. She called upon local, national, and international partners to join efforts in providing urgent humanitarian assistance to the affected regions in eastern Libya.

The U.S. Embassy in Libya, along with several foreign governments, pledged support for relief efforts. The United Arab Emirates announced humanitarian assistance and search-and-rescue teams for eastern Libya, while Turkey and Algeria expressed condolences for the tragic situation.

Storm Daniel is expected to reach parts of western Egypt, with authorities there issuing warnings about potential rain and adverse weather conditions.

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