The aftermath of the devastating flooding in the Libyan port city of Derna has been described as catastrophic, with over 10,000 people reported missing.
The situation is being deemed as “disastrous beyond comprehension” by both the Red Cross and local officials.
According to Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesperson for the administration that controls the east of Libya, the confirmed death toll has exceeded 5,300. Tariq al-Kharraz, another representative from the eastern government, stated that entire neighbourhoods have been washed away, and many bodies have been swept out to sea.
The gravity of the situation is further evident in the fact that hundreds of bodies are piling up in cemeteries, with few survivors able to identify them. Al-Kharraz anticipates that the death toll will surpass 10,000 individuals, a figure that is also supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Rami Elshaheibi, the Libyan national communications officer for the World Health Organization, has labelled the situation in Derna as “disastrous beyond comprehension.” The magnitude of devastation is exemplified by the words of Hichem Chkiouat, the Minister of Civil Aviation, who stated that bodies are scattered everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, and even under collapsed buildings. Chkiouat further adds that approximately 25% of the city has disappeared, with numerous buildings having collapsed.
The flooding has left a lasting and devastating impact on the city of Derna. Families are left grieving as they try to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones, many of whom are still missing. The destruction of entire neighbourhoods has left survivors displaced and in a state of shock.
Rescue and recovery efforts are underway, but the sheer scale of the disaster poses significant challenges. The search for the missing is hampered by the destruction of infrastructure, making access to certain areas difficult. The cleanup and rehabilitation of the city will also take time and resources.
The cause of such a catastrophic flood has yet to be determined, but climate change and the effects of global warming cannot be ruled out as contributing factors. Rising sea levels and increased rainfall intensity can exacerbate the risk of flooding in coastal areas.
The Libyan government, along with international aid organisations, has pledged to provide assistance and support to the affected residents of Derna. Emergency supplies, including food, water, and medical aid, are being mobilised to address the immediate needs of the survivors. However, it is evident that long-term efforts will be required to rebuild and restore the city.
Video footage that has been circulating on social media depicts people pleading for help and screaming as muddy water engulfs their homes. Other videos show torrents sweeping away cars on streets that have turned into rivers. Sondos Shuwaib, a local blogger, was in her home when she found herself torn away by the flood waters.
In a harrowing account of the disaster posted online, she described seeing children and babies caught in the current. The Norwegian Refugee Council has reported that tens of thousands of people have been displaced with no prospect of going back home. Desperate citizens are appealing on social media for information about missing relatives.
Many are angry at the slow pace of the relief effort and the local authorities’ failure to warn that the dams were at risk of bursting. Anas El-Gomati, the founder of the Libya-based Sadeq thinktank, said a political inquest would be necessary.