BENGHAZI: Thousands are feared dead or missing in Libya after huge flash floods devastated eastern regions, with a surge of muddy river water ripping away entire neighbourhoods in one coastal city, local authorities and international aid groups said on Tuesday (Sep 12).
Massive destruction can be seen in images published online from the port city of Derna, home to 100,000 people, where multi-storey buildings on the river banks collapsed and houses vanished in the raging waters after two upstream dams broke.
The disaster in the war-scarred country was caused by torrential rains from Storm Daniel, which made landfall in Libya on Sunday after earlier lashing other Mediterranean countries, especially Greece but also Bulgaria and Turkey.
The coastal city of Derna, 250km (150 miles) west of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, but which has turned into a raging torrent that also swept away several major bridges.
“The death toll is huge and might reach thousands,” warned Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, echoing reports from local leaders who said 2,000 people had died.
“We confirm from our independent sources of information that the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far,” Ramadan told reporters in Geneva via video link from Tunisia, which borders Libya.
Footage on Libyan TV showed dozens of bodies, wrapped in blankets or sheets, on Derna’s main square, awaiting identification and burial, and more bodies in Martouba, a village about 30km to the southeast.
More than 300 victims were buried on Monday, many in mass graves – but vastly greater numbers of people were feared lost in the waters of the river that empties into the Mediterranean Sea.