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Flooding claims thousands of lives in Derna, Libya

Aftermath of the floods in Derna

In the coastal city of Derna, Libya, the devastating impact of the recent catastrophic flooding still reverberates through the community. The death toll stands at a staggering 11,300, with thousands more reported missing, several days after the tragedy struck.

The flooding was unleashed by an exceptionally powerful Mediterranean storm named Daniel, which pounded the region with heavy rains and led to the breach of two dams outside Derna. This natural disaster not only left a trail of destruction in Derna but also affected other communities in eastern Libya, claiming approximately 170 additional lives.

The collapse of the two dams, dating back to the 1970s, exposed Libya’s vulnerability, exacerbated by years of political turmoil and division. Despite funds allocated for their maintenance, a 2021 report by a state-run audit agency revealed that the dams had been neglected.

In response to the crisis, both the eastern and western governments of Libya have united to provide relief efforts. The eastern government is leading these initiatives, while the western government has allocated substantial funds for the reconstruction of Derna and other affected areas. Additionally, an armed group in Tripoli has sent humanitarian aid to support those in need.

The daunting task of burying the deceased residents of Derna continues, with more than 3,000 bodies already interred in mass graves. Search and rescue teams are tirelessly combing through the wreckage, and divers are scouring the coastal areas. The full extent of the disaster makes it challenging to estimate the true number of casualties, with the possibility that many more individuals remain buried beneath debris and mud.

Eastern Libya’s House of Representatives recently approved an emergency budget of 10 billion Libyan dinars (approximately $2 billion) to address the flooding crisis and assist those affected.

As of the latest reports, the Libyan Red Crescent has confirmed 11,300 deaths, and 10,100 people remain missing. However, local officials suspect that the actual death toll may be significantly higher. Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi has suggested that the count could reach 20,000, given the extensive damage to neighborhoods.

The floods have displaced over 30,000 people in Derna alone, with thousands more forced to evacuate their homes in other eastern towns. Access roads to Derna were severely damaged, impeding the arrival of international rescue teams and humanitarian aid. Despite these challenges, international assistance has begun to reach the affected areas, with neighboring countries such as Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia providing support. Italy has dispatched a naval vessel carrying humanitarian aid and rescue helicopters.

President Joe Biden has also pledged U.S. support through relief organizations and collaboration with Libyan authorities and the United Nations.

This ongoing tragedy in Derna underscores the critical need for sustained international aid and support to alleviate the suffering of affected communities and aid in Libya’s recovery from this devastating natural disaster.

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