Torrential rains from Storm Daniel have caused the collapse of two dams in Libya, leading to whole neighborhoods being washed away with at least 2,000 people dead and an estimated 10,000 people missing, presumed drowned.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, gave the missing numbers during a briefing to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. “The death toll is huge,” she said.
In the eastern city of Derna, which has seen the worst of the devastation, as many as 6,000 people are missing, Othman Abduljalil, health minister in Libya’s eastern administration, told Libya’s Almasar TV.
Abduljalil toured Derna on Monday. “The situation was catastrophic… The bodies are still lying in many places,” he said.
“There are families still stuck inside their homes and there are victims under the rubble… I expect people have been washed away into the sea.”
The rain, which has swept across several cities in Libya’s north-east, is the result of a very strong low-pressure system that brought catastrophic flooding to Greece last week and moved into the Mediterranean before developing into a tropical-like cyclone known as a medicane.
There are fears that aid efforts may be hampered by political fractures in Libya, which has seen a decade-long power struggle between two rival administrations.
The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), 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 (LNA), who support the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.
Derna, which lies some 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
The collapse of two dams under the pressure of flooding sent water rushing towards Derna, causing catastrophic damage, authorities said Tuesday.
“Three bridges were destroyed. The flowing water carried away entire neighborhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea,” said Ahmed Mismari, spokesperson for the LNA.
Homes in valleys were washed away by strong muddy currents carrying vehicles and debris, said the head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority, Osama Aly.
Phone lines in the city are down, complicating rescue efforts, with workers unable to enter Derna due to the heavy destruction, Aly told Cable Network News.
Sources: CNN, Libyan government, news agencies.