Libya races to bury its dead as corpses pile up in the streets of Derna, the northern coastal town devastated by floods after a torrential downpour destroyed two dams, sweeping homes into the sea.
Morgues are full in hospitals that remain out of service despite the desperate need to treat survivors of a disaster that has so far claimed lives. at least 5,000 people, according to hospital staff and officials in eastern Libya’s parliament-backed government.
About 10,000 other people are missing, potentially either washed out to sea or buried under rubble scattered across the city that was once home to more than 100,000 people, according to authorities.
More than 30,000 people have been displaced by flooding in Derna, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya said on Wednesday.
Significant damage to the region’s infrastructure has made some affected areas inaccessible to humanitarian groups. Only two of the seven entry points to Derna are now available.
Emergency teams are searching piles of debris for survivors and bodies, while authorities try to honor the Islamic belief that the dead must receive burial rites within three days.
“The martyrs committee (was established to) identify missing persons and carry out identification and burial procedures in accordance with Sharia law and legal laws and standards,” said the Libyan Minister of State for ministerial affairs, Adel Juma.
The destruction caused by Storm Daniel has made a mammoth mission even more difficult for rescuers trying to clear roads and debris to find survivors.
The storm knocked out communications, frustrating relief efforts and causing anxiety among family members living outside Libya, who are waiting for news of their missing loved ones.
Ayah, a Palestinian who has cousins in Derna, said she was unable to contact them since the floods.
“I’m really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. It appears all communications are down and I’m not sure if they are active at this point. It’s very terrifying to watch the videos coming out of Derna. We are all terrified,” she told CNN.
Libya was rocked by the 2011 uprising against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and torn by civil war. The scale of the destruction underscores the vulnerability of a country that has grappled for years with warring factions and chaos.
The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh is headquartered in Tripoli in northwest Libya, while its rival to the east is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and its Libyan National Army (LNA), which supports the eastern-based parliament. led by Osama Hamad.
Derna, located about 300 kilometers east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
Storm Daniel appears to have caused one of the deadliest floods ever recorded in North Africa.
The very strong depression moved towards the Mediterranean before transforming into a tropical cyclone and crossing the Libyan coast. Daniel also caused unprecedented flooding in Greece last week, where the death toll was much lower.
This deadly storm comes during an unprecedented year of climate disasters and unprecedented extreme weather, from devastating wildfires to extreme heat.
While floods affected several towns in the region, Derna suffered the most damage after two dams collapsed, sweeping away entire neighborhoods in chaos. sea.
“Libya was not prepared for such a catastrophe,” said Osama Aly, a spokesperson for the emergency and ambulance services.
Countries and organizations send aid
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the country was facing “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.
Ciaran Donelly, IRC senior vice president for crisis response, said the committee was conducting a joint needs assessment to support those affected by the floods, while also calling for help from the international community.
“We must remember that Libya is not just a country in crisis; it is also a gateway for people on their way to Europe,” he said. “The IRC has worked tirelessly since 2016 to provide essential healthcare and protection to vulnerable Libyans, refugees and migrants affected by this protracted crisis.
Turkish planes carrying humanitarian aid arrived in Libya on Tuesday, according to the Turkish Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country would send 168 search and rescue teams as well as humanitarian aid to Benghazi, according to the official Anadolu news agency.
Italy is sending a civil protection team to help with rescue operations, the country’s civil protection department said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Tripoli announced that its special envoy, Ambassador Richard Norland, had made a formal declaration of humanitarian need.
This will “authorize initial funding that the United States will provide to support relief efforts in Libya.” We are coordinating with UN partners and Libyan authorities to assess how best to target official US assistance,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter).
UAE President Zayed Al Nahyan also ordered aid and search and rescue teams to be sent while offering condolences to those affected by the disaster, the state news agency reported.