Libyan government says thousands missing after Storm Daniel floods the east


Thousands are feared to have died in floods that engulfed Libya’s east after Storm Daniel smashed into the North African country, swallowing whole neighborhoods and with them, an unknown number of residents.

The city of Derna has been most acutely affected, after raging torrents of water tore through two dams and swept entire buildings into the sea. Othman Abdul Jalil, health minister and spokesman of the U.N.-recognized government in west Libya, told local television channel al-Masar that the situation continues to deteriorate in the western city, and at least 2,000 have been found dead.

“I expect numbers of dead will rise to 10,000,” he told the channel early on Tuesday, adding that there is yet to be any confirmed final death count as many parts of the city remain inaccessible. Derna is estimated to have had around 90,000 residents.

Drone footage from Sept. 11 shows the flooded town of Al-Marj, after a powerful storm unleashed torrential rain and extreme flooding across northeastern Libya. (Video: Al Masar TV)

“We call on friendly countries to help us save what is left of Derna,” Abdul Jalil said. “The field hospital is filled with corpses.”

Tawfiq al-Shukri, spokesman for the Red Crescent in Libya, told The Washington Post over 9,000 had been reported missing.

Authorities in both the east and the west declared Derna a disaster zone on Monday after the water poured through it, submerging parts of the city in copper-colored liquid.

‘Catastrophe’ in Libya’s Derna as deadly floods engulf city

Libya’s infrastructure has suffered repeated blows over the course of a civil war that broke out after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country now remains divided between rival governments in the east and the west.

The west, which houses the U.N.-backed government, has rushed to help the east after the apocalyptic images surfaced. Telecommunication networks were down on Monday and early Tuesday: Abdul Jalil said they had lost contact with Derna’s emergency services at 3:30 a.m. TV channel al-Masar said it also could not reach its correspondents on the ground.

General Khalifa Hifter, head of a coalition of factions and irregular fighters known as the Libyan National Army in the east, in a statement early on Tuesday called on other parts of the country to help the cities and towns in the Green Mountain area, which includes Derna and other affected places.

The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan have dispatched search and rescue teams and medical personnel to provide assistance.

Asmahan Belaoun, a member of parliament with family ties to Derna, told The Post on Monday that the highest priorities right now are providing a telecoms network and helicopters to find survivors. She added that, as winter approaches, the dams must be urgently rebuilt to keep any future flooding at bay.


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