October 5, 2023

By SAMY MAGDY and YOUSEF MURAD (Related Press)

DERNA, Libya (AP) — Search groups combed streets, wrecked buildings and even the ocean Wednesday to search for our bodies in a coastal Libyan metropolis the place the collapse of two dams unleashed a large flash flood that killed not less than 5,100 folks.

The Mediterranean metropolis of Derna has struggled to get assist after Sunday evening’s deluge washed away most entry roads. Help staff who managed to achieve the town described devastation in its heart, with 1000’s nonetheless lacking and tens of 1000’s left homeless.

“Our bodies are in all places, inside homes, within the streets, at sea. Wherever you go, you discover useless males, ladies, and kids,” Emad al-Falah, an assist employee from Benghazi, mentioned over the telephone from Derna. “Whole households have been misplaced.”

Mediterranean storm Daniel triggered lethal flooding Sunday in lots of cities of jap Libya, however the worst-hit was Derna. Two dams within the mountains above the town collapsed, sending floodwaters roaring down the Wadi Derna river and thru the town heart, sweeping away total metropolis blocks.

As a lot as 1 / 4 of the town has disappeared, emergency officers mentioned.

Waves rose as excessive as 7 meters (23 ft), Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross in Libya, advised broadcaster France24.

Trainer Mohammed Derna mentioned he, his household and neighbors rushed to the roof of their house constructing, shocked on the quantity of water speeding by. It reached the second story of many buildings, he mentioned. They watched folks beneath, together with ladies and kids being washed away.

“They have been screaming, ‘Assist, assist,’” he mentioned over the telephone from a area hospital in Derna. “It was like a Hollywood horror film.”

Derna lies on a slim coastal plain, beneath steep mountains. The one two usable roads from the south take a winding route by the mountains.

Collapsed bridges over the river cut up the town heart, additional hampering motion.

Search groups went by shattered house buildings and retrieved the useless floating offshore within the Mediterranean Sea, al-Falah mentioned.

Ossama Ali, a spokesman for an ambulance heart in jap Libya, mentioned not less than 5,100 deaths have been recorded in Derna, together with round 100 others elsewhere in jap Libya. Greater than 7,000 folks within the metropolis have been injured.

A spokesman for the jap Libyan inside ministry put the loss of life tally in Derna at greater than 5,300, in line with the state-run information company.

The variety of deaths was prone to enhance since groups are nonetheless accumulating our bodies, Ali mentioned. A minimum of 9,000 persons are lacking, however that quantity might drop as communications are restored.

A minimum of 30,000 folks in Derna have been displaced by the flooding, the U.N.’s Worldwide Group for Migration mentioned.

The storm hit different areas in jap Libya, together with the cities of Bayda, Susa and Marj. Rescuers retrieved not less than 150 our bodies Wednesday from the ocean off Bayda, bringing the loss of life tally within the city to about 200, Ali mentioned.

The startling devastation pointed to the storm’s depth, but additionally Libya’s vulnerability. The nation is split by rival governments, one within the east, the opposite within the west, and the consequence has been neglect of infrastructure in lots of areas.

Ahmed Abdalla, a survivor who joined the search-and-rescue effort, mentioned they have been placing our bodies within the yard of a hospital earlier than taking them for burial in mass graves at Derna’s sole intact cemetery.

“The state of affairs is indescribable. Whole households useless on this catastrophe. Some have been washed away to the ocean,” Abdalla mentioned by telephone.

Derna is 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Benghazi, the place worldwide assist began to reach on Tuesday.

Neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, in addition to Turkey, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, despatched rescue groups and assist. The U.Okay. and German governments despatched help too, together with blankets, sleeping luggage, sleeping mats, tents, water filters and turbines.

U.S. President Joe Biden additionally mentioned the USA would ship cash to reduction organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to supply further assist.

Authorities transferred tons of of our bodies to morgues in close by cities. Greater than 300, together with 84 Egyptians, have been delivered to the morgue within the metropolis of Tobruk, 169 kilometers (105 miles) east of Derna, the native Medical Heart reported.

The victims’ lists mirrored how Libya, regardless of its turmoil, was all the time a magnet for staff from across the area due to its oil business.

Greater than 70 of Derna’s useless hailed from a single southern Egyptian village, el-Sharif. On Wednesday morning, tons of attended a mass funeral within the village for 64 folks.

Rabei Hanafy mentioned his prolonged household misplaced 16 males within the flooding, 12 of whom have been buried Wednesday. One other funeral for 4 others was held in a city within the northern Nile Delta.

Amongst these killed in Libya was the household of Saleh Sariyeh, a Palestinian initially from the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon who had lived in Derna for many years. The 62-year-old, his spouse and two daughters have been all killed when their house in Derna was washed away, his nephew Mohammed Sariyeh mentioned.

The 4 have been buried in Derna. Due to ongoing gunbattles in Ein el-Hilweh, the household there couldn’t maintain a gathering to obtain condolences from associates and neighbors, Mohammed mentioned.

Derna, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli, is managed by the forces of highly effective army commander Khalifa Hifter, who’s allied with the jap Libyan authorities. The rival authorities in western Libya, based mostly in Tripoli, is allied with different armed teams.

Derna was as soon as a hub for extremist teams within the years of chaos that adopted the NATO-backed rebellion that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.


Magdy reported from Cairo. Related Press Author Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.