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Libya: flood death toll in Derna ‘may reach 20,000’

September 14, 2023 at 12:23 pm

A view of devastation in disaster zones after the floods caused by the Storm Daniel ravaged the region in Derna, Libya on September 12, 2023 [Abdullah Mohammed Bonja – Anadolu Agency]

The death toll in Derna as a result of the catastrophic flooding in Libya may reach 20,000, the city’s mayor has said. Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi based his estimate on the number of districts destroyed by the floodwater. The interior ministry of the government in eastern Libya said yesterday that the army had evacuated all residents and journalists from Derna to facilitate search and rescue operations.

Storm Daniel swept through several areas in eastern Libya on Sunday, most notably Benghazi, Al-Bayda, and Al-Marj, as well as Sousse and Derna, leaving thousands dead and missing, most of them in Derna.

On Wednesday, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health in the Libyan Government of National Unity, Saad Al-Din Abdel Wakil, confirmed that the number of deaths from the floods “exceeded 6,000”, and the missing were numbered in the thousands. “The death toll is a preliminary figure for all the areas affected by the floods, with the city of Derna recording the largest number.” He predicted that the death toll will rise.

According to Abdel Wakil, the work of government hospitals in the affected areas has been almost completely disrupted. Work is ongoing to have at least ten hospitals functioning and staffed as fully as possible, along with 20 local centres providing healthcare.

“The National Centre for Disease Control is evaluating the situation in Derna because of the human and animal corpses that are already decomposing,” he added.

The spokesman for the interior ministry in the government of eastern Libya, Tariq Al-Kharaz, said that burials have already taken place in Derna. “Almost 2,100 bodies have been buried in the city, of which 1,100 were unidentified.” At least 2,000 official reports of missing persons have been received by the authorities, added Al-Kharaz.

When asked about the nationalities of non-Libyans reported missing, he explained that “35 missing persons are Egyptians, and 151 Sudanese were buried in Derna.” It is known that at least 12 Palestinians are among the dead, with “scores more” still missing.

The head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Menfi, said in a televised speech on Tuesday evening that the disaster is greater than Libya can bear alone. “We call on friendly countries for urgent assistance.” He thanked the countries which have already provided aid, referring to Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and France.

READ: Libyans search for families after catastrophic flood