WORLD NEWS

At least 2,000 dead, 10,000 believed missing in ‘catastrophic’ flooding in Libya

Sep 12, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: 1:07 pm

Settlements, vehicles and workplaces damaged after floods caused by heavy rains in Misrata, Libya o...

Settlements, vehicles and workplaces damaged after floods caused by heavy rains in Misrata, Libya on September 10.

(CNN) — Around 2,000 people have died and 10,000 are believed missing after Storm Daniel dumped so much rain on Libya’s northeast that two dams collapsed sending water flowing into already inundated areas.

Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, gave the numbers of missing people during a briefing to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. “The death toll is huge,” she said.

In the eastern city of Derna, which has seen the worst of the devastation, as many as 6,000 people are missing, Othman Abduljalil, health minister in Libya’s eastern administration, told Libya’s Almasar TV.

Whole neighborhoods are believed to have been washed away in the city, according to authorities.

Abduljalil toured Derna on Monday. “The situation was catastrophic… The bodies are still lying in many places,” he said.

“There are families still stuck inside their homes and there are victims under the rubble… I expect people have been washed away into the sea.”

The rain, which has swept across several cities in Libya’s north-east, is the result of a very strong low-pressure system that brought catastrophic flooding to Greece last week and moved into the Mediterranean before developing into a tropical-like cyclone known as a medicane.

There are fears that aid efforts may be hampered by political fractures in Libya, which has seen a decade-long power struggle between two rival administrations.

The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, sits in Tripoli in northwest Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), who support the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.

Derna, which lies some 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.

Dams collapse

The collapse of two dams under the pressure of flooding sent water rushing towards Derna, causing catastrophic damage, authorities said Tuesday.

“Three bridges were destroyed. The flowing water carried away entire neighborhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea,” said Ahmed Mismari, spokesperson for the LNA.

Homes in valleys were washed away by strong muddy currents carrying vehicles and debris, said the head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority, Osama Aly.

Phone lines in the city are down, complicating rescue efforts, with workers unable to enter Derna due to the heavy destruction, Aly told CNN.

Aly said authorities didn’t anticipate the scale of the disaster.

“The weather conditions were not studied well, the seawater levels and rainfall [were not studied], the wind speeds, there was no evacuation of families that could be in the path of the storm and in valleys,” he said.

“Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like that. It has not witnessed that level of catastrophe before. We are admitting there were shortcomings even though this is the first time we face that level of catastrophe,” Aly told Al Hurra channel.

‘Unprecedented flooding’

The storm looks certain to be one of the deadliest on record in North Africa.

Libya is facing an “unprecedented” situation, said Hamad, the head of the eastern administration, according to a report from state news organization Libyan News Agency (LANA).

Mismari, the LNA spokesperson, said the floods have affected several cities, including Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Tobruk, Takenis, Al-Bayada, and Battah, as well as the eastern coast all the way to Benghazi.

Several countries have offered aid as rescue teams scramble to find survivors under the debris and rubble.

Turkish aircraft delivering humanitarian aid have arrived in Libya, according to Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country would send 168 search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid to Benghazi, according to state run news agency Anadoulu Agency on Tuesday.

Italy is sending a civil defense team to assist with rescue operations, the country’s Civil Protection Department said Tuesday.

The US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, announced that its special envoy, ambassador Richard Norland, had made an official declaration of humanitarian need.

This “will authorize initial funding that the United States will provide in support of relief efforts in Libya. We are coordinating with UN partners and Libyan authorities to assess how best to target official US assistance,” it posted on X (formally known as Twitter).

United Arab Emirates President, Zayed Al Nahyan, has directed to send aid and search and rescue teams while offering his condolences to those affected by the catastrophe, state news agency reported.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also extended his condolences to Libya. “I wish a speedy recovery for the injured, and I hope that the crisis will pass quickly with Libyans standing together in unity,” El-Sisi said in a statement on social media.

Libya’s National Meteorological Centre said that the storm reached a peak in northeastern Libya on 10 September, with strong winds of up to 80 kmh (50 mph), according to a statement from the World Meteorological Organization.

The weather system is expected to move slowly east toward northern Egypt. Rainfall for the next two days could reach 50mm – this region averages less than 10mm across the whole of September.

Libya’s storm follows deadly flooding in many other parts of the globe including Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Hong Kong.

Scientists are clear that human-caused climate change is supercharging storms and other extreme weather events

Warmer oceans help storms gain energy and the temperature of Mediterranean waters is currently well above average

The storm is happening in a year that has already seen a slew of deadly, record breaking climate extremes, from devastating wildfires to unprecedented heat. This summer was the planet’s hottest on record by a significant margin, and scientists warn that 2024 is likely to be even hotter.

Related: All members of Utah National Guard in Morocco are safe following earthquake

 

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At least 2,000 dead, 10,000 believed missing in ‘catastrophic’ flooding in Libya