Libya floods: Over 5,00o people have died in ‘calamity of epic proportions’

Libya floods: Over 5,00o people have died in ‘calamity of epic proportions’

Desperate Search for Flood Survivors in Libya

A frantic search for survivors in the aftermath of devastating floods in Libya is underway. Officials have reported a grim increase in the death toll, which has now surpassed 5,000. The United Nations has characterized the situation as a “calamity of epic proportions.”

Tragic Scenes and Mass Burials

Heart-wrenching scenes have emerged from the Mediterranean port city of Derna, where some bodies were found lying in the streets. The catastrophe has left thousands feared to have been swept into the sea by the torrent of water unleashed by the floods. Mass graves have been used to bury the victims, adding to the gravity of the situation.

Unveiling the Destruction

Photographs capturing the aftermath of the disaster depict a landscape of wrecked buildings, crushed cars, and parts of the city submerged in water. Rescue efforts to locate the many missing individuals remain ongoing.

The Genesis of the Disaster

The disaster unfolded with the onset of Storm Daniel, which unleashed heavy rain on Libya. However, the situation escalated when dams upriver from Derna became overwhelmed, resulting in the inundation of the city with massive volumes of water.

Alarming Death Toll and Ongoing Search

In the eastern city of Derna, officials have reported a death toll exceeding 5,000. Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation for the administration governing eastern Libya, noted that this number is expected to rise significantly, possibly even doubling. Hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed, with one hospital director reporting 1,700 counted bodies and an additional 500 buried elsewhere in the city. Approximately 10,000 people are estimated to be missing, with many feared swept out to sea.

UN’s Assessment and Aid Efforts

The United Nations’ World Health Organization has estimated that up to 1.8 million people have been affected by the torrential rains in Libya, impacting several other cities in addition to Derna. The UN described this disaster as “epic” and noted the absence of such a storm in living memory in the region.

Humanitarian Response and Challenges

Aid convoys and trucks carrying bulldozers have been mobilized to assist Derna in the wake of the catastrophe. The flood has inflicted extensive destruction, leaving the city’s streets strewn with rubble, mud, and debris. Satellite images taken before and after the disaster illustrate the dramatic transformation of the cityscape, with entire buildings washed away by the floods.

Tragedy for Aid Workers

The British Red Cross has launched an appeal to aid the victims, acknowledging the immense challenges faced by rescue workers in this perilous situation. Tragically, three Libyan Red Crescent volunteers have lost their lives while attempting to save others.

Political Complexity in Rescue Operations

Rescue operations are further complicated by the political divisions in Libya, which has experienced turmoil since the ousting of dictator Col Gaddafi in 2011. The internationally recognized Government of National Unity is located in the west, in Tripoli, while Derna falls within an eastern area where a parallel administration operates, under the control of commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

Calls for Unity

Despite the political divisions, Libya’s leaders have recognized the magnitude of the disaster. Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah referred to it as an unprecedented catastrophe, while the head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohammed al-Menfi, called for national unity.

International Aid

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has mobilized emergency response teams to provide assistance. Several governments, including Qatar and Turkey, have rushed aid to Libya to alleviate the suffering caused by the floods.

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