Floods in Libya leave 2,000 dead and more missing. After the storm hit the dam

A Mediterranean tempest, named Daniel, wreaked havoc in Libya, leading to the collapse of dams and the devastation of several coastal towns in the country’s north-eastern region. On Monday, one of the nation’s leaders expressed concerns that around 2,000 individuals may have lost their lives.

The city that bore the brunt of the destruction was Derna, which has been plagued by chaos for over a decade and, as a result, had inadequate and crumbling infrastructure. Libya, still grappling with divisions between two rival administrations supported by militias and foreign governments, remains deeply divided.

As of late Monday, health authorities had confirmed 61 casualties due to the flooding over the weekend, but this count excluded Derna, which had become inaccessible. Many of the thousands of missing individuals were believed to have been swept away when two upstream dams gave way.

Online videos shared by city residents depicted extensive devastation. Entire residential neighborhoods along a river coursing through the city center had been obliterated. Multistory apartment complexes, which had once stood at a distance from the river, were now partially submerged in mud.

In a phone interview on Monday, Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the eastern Libyan government revealed that there were fears of 2,000 casualties in Derna, with thousands more missing. Derna was declared a disaster zone.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesperson for the eastern-based armed forces of the country, stated during a news conference that the death toll in Derna had exceeded 2,000, with reports of between 5,000 and 6,000 missing individuals. Al-Mosmari attributed the catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, which resulted in a deadly flash flood.

Since the 2011 uprising that toppled and subsequently killed the long-standing ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has been without a central government, resulting in lawlessness and a decline in investments in infrastructure and public services. The nation is currently divided between rival governments in the east and west, each with its own set of supporting militias.

Derna, once controlled by extremist groups, including those aligned with the Islamic State, faced the expulsion of such groups by forces loyal to the eastern-based government in 2018, along with the city of Sirte.

Reports indicated at least 46 casualties in the eastern town of Bayda, with another seven reported in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority. Seven more casualties were reported in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, as stated by Ossama Abduljaleel, the health minister. One person was reported deceased in the town of Marj on Sunday.

The Libyan Red Crescent reported the loss of three of its workers while assisting families in Derna. Additionally, one worker was unaccounted for after attempting to help a stranded family in Bayda. Dozens of others were reported missing, and authorities were concerned they might have perished in the floods that ravaged homes and properties in several eastern Libyan towns, according to local media.

Derna reportedly found itself in a catastrophic state with no access to electricity or communication, according to local media sources.

Essam Abu Zeriba, the interior minister of the eastern Libyan government, estimated that over 5,000 individuals were unaccounted for in Derna, many of whom were swept towards the Mediterranean.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Georgette Gagnon, stated that early reports indicated severe impacts on dozens of villages and towns, including widespread flooding, infrastructure damage, and loss of life. She appealed for urgent humanitarian assistance from local, national, and international partners for the people in eastern Libya.

The U.S. Embassy in Libya, via a statement on a social media platform, confirmed its coordination with the U.N. and Libyan authorities to determine how to deliver aid to the most affected areas.

Over the weekend, Libyans shared videos on social media showing flooded houses and roads in many areas across eastern Libya. They pleaded for assistance as floods trapped people inside their homes and vehicles.

Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the eastern Libyan government declared Derna a disaster zone following heavy rainfall and floods that devastated much of the city, located in the delta of the small Wadi Derna on Libya’s east coast. He also announced three days of mourning and ordered national flags to be lowered to half-staff.

Commander Khalifa Hifter, who controls eastern and western Libya, deployed troops to assist residents in Benghazi and other eastern towns. Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesperson for Hifter’s forces, mentioned that they had lost contact with five troops who were helping besieged families in Bayda.

Several foreign governments expressed their support on Monday evening. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, announced that his country would send humanitarian aid and search-and-rescue teams to eastern Libya. Turkey, which supports the Tripoli-based government in the west, along with neighboring Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq, also extended condolences.

Storm Daniel was expected to reach parts of western Egypt on Monday, with local meteorological authorities issuing warnings about possible rainfall and adverse weather conditions.

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