Flooding death toll soars to 11,300 in Libya's coastal city of Derna
The death toll in Libya's coastal city of Derna has soared to 11,300 following a massive flood fed by the breaching of two dams in heavy rains, the Libyan Red Crescent said on Thursday.
The Libyan House of Representatives approved an emergency budget on Thursday of 10 billion Libyan dinars (about $2 billion) to mitigate the destruction caused by Storm Daniel, and search and rescue efforts continue.
Rescue work is hindered by the political fractures in a country of 7 million people, at war on and off and with no government holding nationwide reach since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Derna Mayor Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi told Al Arabiya television the estimated the number of deaths in the city could reach 18,000 to 20,000 based on the number of districts destroyed by the flood.
Libyan authorities have demanded an investigation into whether human failings were to blame for the astonishing death toll in the worst natural disaster in the country's modern history.
A torrent unleashed by a powerful storm burst dams on Sunday night and hurtled down a seasonal riverbed that bisects the eastern city of Derna, washing multi-storey buildings into the sea with sleeping families inside.
The World Meteorological Organization said the huge loss of life could have been avoided if Libya – a country embroiled in war for more than a decade – had a functioning weather agency in place.
"If there would have been a normally operating meteorological service, they could have issued warnings," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalashe said in Geneva. "The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out evacuation of the people. And we could have avoided most of the human casualties."
Rescue teams have arrived from Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Türkiye and Qatar. Among countries sending aid, Türkiye sent a ship carrying equipment to set up two field hospitals. Italy sent three planes of supplies and personnel, as well as two navy ships that had difficulty offloading because Derna's debris-choked port was almost unusable.
The World Health Organization said it would release $2 million from its emergency fund to support the victims, calling the floods a "calamity of epic proportions." It added it would send trauma, surgical and emergency supplies from its logistics hub in Dubai.
(With input from Reuters)
(Cover: A general view of Libya's city of Derna after Storm Daniel caused devastating floods, September 12, 2023. /CFP)