- Author, Lucy Fleming
- Role, .
Rescue teams in Libya are struggling to recover bodies that were swept into the sea by torrents after severe floods hit the northern coast.
At least 2,300 people were killed, according to ambulance authorities in the city of Derna, the city most affected by the disaster.
Two dams and 4 bridges collapsed in Derna, leading to the submergence of a large part of the city, after Hurricane Daniel hit it on Sunday.
About 10,000 people were reported missing, according to Red Crescent estimates, and the number of victims is expected to increase over time.
Some aid has begun to arrive in the country, from several countries, including Egypt, but rescue efforts are stalled due to the political differences that are plaguing the country, which is divided between two separate governments.
The United States, Qatar, Iran, Italy, and Turkey said they would begin sending aid urgently.
The cities of Benghazi, Sousse, and Al-Marj in eastern Libya are also suffering from the repercussions of the storm that struck the country on Sunday.
Hisham Shekiwat, Minister of Aviation and member of the Emergency Response Committee of the government in the east of the country, told . that the collapse of a dam south of the city of Derna led to large parts of the city sinking into the sea.
For his part, the head of the Libyan government in Tripoli, Abdul Hamid Al-Dabaiba, said that rescue teams are suffering in an effort to recover some of the missing bodies, and divers and naval personnel are making additional efforts in this regard.
Shekiwat added, “A large neighborhood has been destroyed. There is also a large number of victims, and this number is increasing every hour.”
The Minister of Aviation said: “There are currently 1,500 dead and more than 2,000 missing. We do not have accurate numbers, but it is a disaster,” adding that “the dam that collapsed has not been maintained for some time.”
“I was shocked by what I saw. It was like a tsunami,” Shekiwat told the BBC.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya, told reporters that the death toll was likely to be “enormous.”
Kamal Ramadan said, via video link, from Tunisia, neighboring Libya: “Our teams on the ground are still assessing the situation… We do not have a final toll at the moment. The number of missing people has reached 10,000 people so far.”
Water engineering experts confirmed to the BBC that it was desirable that the upper dam, which was about 12 kilometers away from the city, failed first and collapsed, sending water behind it down towards the city, which is located in the heart of the valley, towards the second dam, which is located near Derna.
In addition to areas in eastern Libya being affected by floods, the city of Misrata in the west of the country was also affected.
Libya has been witnessing a state of political chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled the country for a long time and was killed in 2011, which led to a virtual division in the oil-rich country between an internationally recognized interim government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another in the east.
According to Libyan journalist Abdul Qader Asaad, this hampers rescue efforts because the various authorities are unable to respond quickly to a natural disaster.
He told the BBC: “There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years has been about war.”
“There are two governments in Libya… and this, in fact, is slowing down the arrival of the aid that is coming to them because the situation is a bit confusing. There are people who are pledging aid but the aid is not arriving.”
Hisham Shekiwat said aid was on its way and that the administration in the east would accept help from the Tripoli government, which sent a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies, body bags and more than 80 doctors and paramedics.
The US special envoy to Libya, Richard Norton, said that Washington will send aid to eastern Libya in coordination with United Nations partners and the Libyan authorities.
Derna is located about 250 kilometers east of Benghazi along the coast, surrounded by nearby hills in the fertile Jebel Akhdar region.
The city was once a scene of activity by ISIS militants inside Libya, after the fall of Gaddafi. They were expelled years later by the Libyan National Army, forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, who are allied with the administration of the east of the country.
The strong general said that officials in the east of the country are currently assessing the damage caused by the floods, so that roads can be rebuilt and electricity restored to aid in rescue efforts.
Reuters quoted him as saying in a televised speech: “All official bodies, especially the Central Bank of Libya, must provide the necessary urgent financial support, so that those responsible for implementing the reconstruction can carry out their tasks and move forward with it.”