Devastating Floods in Derna, Libya: Search for Thousands of Victims Continues

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One week after the devastating floods that struck the city of Derna on the eastern coast of Libya, Libyan rescue teams, supported by foreign teams, continued their search for thousands of casualties and missing individuals in the aftermath of the disaster.

The storm, named Daniel, struck eastern Libya on Sunday night with heavy rainfall, causing the collapse of two dams upstream of Derna. This led to the rapid flooding of the river that runs through the city, unleashing a tsunami-like wave that swept away buildings, bridges, and roads, and resulted in thousands of casualties.

Amidst the widespread devastation in the city, bodies are being recovered daily from beneath the rubble of destroyed neighborhoods or from the sea and are laid to rest.

The Minister of Health in the eastern Libyan government, Osman Abdel Jalil, announced on Saturday evening that the death toll had reached 3,252, an increase of 86 deaths from the previous 24 hours. However, conflicting figures, ranging from over 3,000 to over 11,000 casualties, have been reported. Abdel Jalil emphasized that his ministry alone is authorized to release casualty numbers.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated in a press release on Saturday that 3,958 bodies have been found and identified, with “more than 9,000 people still missing,” without specifying the source of these numbers.

Maltese rescuers have been assisting Libyans in search operations at sea, recovering hundreds of bodies in the Gulf, although the exact location was not pinpointed with precision.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, during a briefing on Saturday evening, reported that the death toll in Derna had risen to 11,300, with 10,100 people missing in the devastated city. These numbers were said to be based on data from the Libyan Red Crescent Society.

However, the Libyan Red Crescent Society earlier denied a previous casualty toll attributed to them, stating that “there are 10,000 victims of the floods in the city of Derna,” and confirming that its spokesperson, Tawfiq Al-Shukri, is the only authorized spokesperson while urging the media to exercise caution and accuracy in reporting news and updates.

Rescue teams, both Libyan and foreign, continue to find bodies daily, but the tons of mud that buried parts of the city make search operations challenging. Rescuers often have to remove the mud with shovels to search for bodies in the collapsed buildings.

The complexity of the political chaos and division that has plagued Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 further complicates relief efforts. Two rival governments vie for power in the country: one based in Tripoli in the west, led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and recognized by the United Nations, and the other in the east of the country, which was struck by the storm, led by Osama Hamad and supported by the powerful eastern figure, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Authorities have also announced that they have begun the process of counting the bodies that were hastily buried in the days immediately following the disaster and identifying the deceased.

Given the enormity of the disaster, international mobilization remains strong, with relief flights continuing to land at Benina Airport in Benghazi, the largest city in eastern Libya, as relief and aid teams from international organizations and foreign countries arrive.


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