Share on:

Shristy Kamal, Pune

More than 5,000 people were killed in Libya after severe rain caused two dams to collapse near the coastal city of Derna and swept the entire district into the sea on the night of Saturday 10. At least 20,000 people have been declared displaced and 10,000 have been declared missing. On Tuesday, Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesman for the East Libya interior ministry, claimed that the death toll in Derna alone has surpassed 5,300. The death toll was initially estimated at 2,300 by Derna’s ambulance authority. Many people are still missing, and the death toll is expected to increase over the next few days. Libya, a war-torn country in North Africa, was unprepared for Storm Daniel, which rushed over the Mediterranean Sea and battered its shoreline.

After more than ten years of unrest, Libya is still split between two opposing governments, one in the east and one in the west, supported by various militias and foreign powers. The oil-rich nation of North Africa now has a deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure due to the conflict. According to officials, the waters those dams had been keeping back washed entire neighbourhoods into the sea. Tall structures collapsed into the muck, burying residents beneath the debris. “Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings,” said Hichem Abu Chkiouat, minister of civil aviation. On Tuesday, rescuers found more than 1,500 victims in the debris of Derna, a city in eastern Libya.

Medical teams have gone to Libya to assist in the search for survivors and the treatment of the injured. However, rescue attempts have been delayed due to the blocked roads into Derna caused by the flooding. Workers from more than 180 miles away from Benghazi and the United Arab Emirates arrived on Wednesday. Additionally, Benghazi has received supplies from the Tripoli government of Libya, including body bags and medical supplies. However, it’s unclear if supplies have reached the worst-hit regions. The Derna City Council demanded both international action and a secure shipping route to the city.

Residents of Derna posted recordings online displaying extensive destruction. Entire residential neighbourhoods were destroyed along Wadi Derna, a river that flows through the heart of the city after descending from the mountains. Apartment complexes with multiple floors that had earlier been set back from the river were now half submerged in mud.

The remains of a potent low-pressure system, officially called Storm Daniel by the national meteorological institutions of southeastern Europe, have caused nonstop rain. Residents of the city heard tremendous explosions as the storm pounded the coast, which signaled the collapse of dams outside the city. The Wadi Derna, a river that flows through the city and into the sea from the highlands, experienced flash floods. Last week, Storm Daniel wrought havoc in Greece by flooding large areas of the country, then moved into the Mediterranean Sea, where it developed into a tropical cyclone known as a “medicane.”