Up to 3,000 people have died and 10,000 are missing in the massive floods that have overwhelmed parts of eastern Libya, AlJazeera has reported.
Also, the death toll from Morocco’s Saturday earthquake has risen above 3,000, and rescuers raced against time to find survivors.
Emergency workers uncovered hundreds of bodies in the wreckage of Libya’s eastern city of Derna on Tuesday, and they feared the toll could spiral, with 10,000 people reported still missing after floodwaters smashed through dams and washed away the entire neighbourhoods of the city, AP News says in another report.
The shocking aftermath of the Mediterranean Storm Daniel highlighted not only the ferocity of the storm but also the fragility of a nation that had endured over a decade of turmoil. With rival governments established in the eastern and western regions, the country had witnessed significant neglect of its infrastructure in numerous areas.
It was on Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the calamity had struck, that external assistance began to arrive in Derna. The flooding had left numerous access roads to this coastal city, home to approximately 89,000 people, in ruins or completely impassable
According to AlJazeera, Libya’s Red Crescent spokesman Taqfiq Shukri said on Tuesday that there are 2,084 people confirmed dead, while IFRC head Tamer Ramadan said, “The number of missing people is hitting 10,000 so far.”
Some 20,000 people have been displaced, according to estimates. Libya’s eastern administration, based in Benghazi, estimates that 3,000 people are dead.
In the capital Tripoli, Government of National Unity Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah announced on Tuesday that an aid plane carrying 14 tonnes of supplies and medical personnel is headed to Benghazi to help, although there are still difficulties entering the hardest-hit city of Derna.
Search teams from Spain, Britain, and Qatar were joining Moroccan rescue efforts after a 6.8-magnitude quake struck late on Friday in the High Atlas Mountains, with the epicentre 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.
The Libyan envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Tamer Ramadan, says the toll is likely to be higher, in the thousands.
He told a U.N. briefing in Geneva via videoconference from Tunisia that at least 10,000 people were still missing.
The situation in Libya was “as devastating as the situation in Morocco,” Ramadan said, referring to the deadly earthquake that hit near the city of Marrakesh on Friday night.
On Tuesday, local emergency responders, including troops, government workers, volunteers, and residents, dug through rubble looking for the dead. They also used inflatable boats to retrieve bodies from the water.
Eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, told AP on the phone from Derna that “many bodies were believed to be trapped under rubble or had been washed out into the Mediterranean Sea.
“We were stunned by the amount of destruction. The tragedy is very significant and beyond the capacity of Derna and the government.”
One of the residents, Ahmed Abdalla, said, “The destruction came to Derna and other parts of Eastern Libya on Sunday night. As the storm pounded the coast, Derna residents said they heard loud explosions and realised that dams outside the city had collapsed. Flash floods were unleashed down Wadi Derna, a river running from the mountains through the city and into the sea.”
The wall of water “erased everything in its way,” he added.
Meanwhile, Libya’s National Metrological Centre said Tuesday it issued early warnings for Storm Daniel, an “extreme weather event,” 72 hours before its occurrence, and notified all governmental authorities by e-mails and through the media, “urging them to take preventive measures. It said that Bayda recorded a record 414.1 millimetres (16.3 inches) of rain from Sunday to Monday.
The storm hit other areas in eastern Libya, including the town of Bayda, where about 50 people were reported dead. The Medical Centre of Bayda, the main hospital, was flooded, and patients had to be evacuated, according to footage shared by the centre on Facebook, the agency also reported.
Other towns that suffered included Susa, Marj, and Shahatt. Hundreds of families were displaced and took shelter in schools and other government buildings in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern Libya.
Northeast Libya is one of the country’s most fertile and green regions. The Jabal al-Akhdar area—where Bayda, Marj, and Shahatt are located—has one of the country’s highest average annual rainfalls, according to the World Bank.
Relatives of people who lived in the destroyed city of Derna told CNN they were terrified after seeing videos of the flooding with no word from their family members.
Ayah, a Palestinian woman with cousins in Derna, said, “I’m really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. It seems all communications are down, and I don’t know if they are alive at this point. It is very terrifying watching the videos coming out of Derna. We are all terrified.”
Emad Milad, a resident of Tobrok, said eight of his relatives died in the flooding in Derma.
“My wife Areej’s sister and her husband both passed away. His whole family is also dead. A total of eight people are all gone. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster. We are praying for better things,” he said on Tuesday.
CNN reports that the UN-backed Government of National Unity, led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, sits in Tripoli in northwest Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by Commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, who support the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.
Derna, which lies some 300 kilometres (190 miles) east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
The Libyan National Army spokesperson, Ahmed Mismari, said on Tuesday that the collapse of two dams under the pressure of flooding, which sent water rushing towards Derna, has caused catastrophic damage.
“Three bridges were destroyed. The flowing water carried away entire neighbourhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea,” he said.
According to CNN reports, the International Rescue Committee Senior Vice President for Crisis Response, Ciaran Donelly, said the country faces “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in the wake of the disaster.
Turkish aircraft delivering humanitarian aid have arrived in Libya, according to Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority on Tuesday.
Italy is sending a civil defence team to assist with rescue operations, the country’s Civil Protection Department said on Tuesday.
The US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, announced that its special envoy, Richard Norland, had made an official declaration of humanitarian need.
This “will authorise initial funding that the United States will provide in support of relief efforts in Libya. We are coordinating with UN partners and Libyan authorities to assess how best to target official US assistance,” it posted on X (formally known as Twitter).
The United Arab Emirates President, Zayed Al Nahyan, has directed the sending of aid, search, and rescue teams while offering his condolences to those affected by the catastrophe, a state news agency reported.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also extended his condolences to Libya. “I wish a speedy recovery for the injured, and I hope that the crisis will pass quickly with Libyans standing together in unity,” El-Sisi said in a statement on social media.
The storm reached a peak in northeastern Libya on Monday, according to a statement from the World Meteorological Organisation, citing Libya’s National Meteorological Centre.