United Nations agencies yesterday warned that disease outbreaks could bring “a second devastating crisis” to Libya after a huge flash flood swept the coastal city of Derna, in the east of the country, killing more than 12,000 people, while thousands are still missing.
The UN agencies warned that “traumatised residents, 30,000 of whom are now homeless, badly need clean water, food and basic supplies amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition.”
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said: “Teams from nine UN agencies have been on the ground delivering aid and support to those affected by Storm Daniel and the flash flooding for the last few days.”
However, it warned that local officials, aid agencies and the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), “are concerned about the risk of disease outbreak, particularly from contaminated water and the lack of sanitation.”
“The team continues to work to prevent diseases from taking hold and causing a second devastating crisis in the area,” UNSMIL said in a statement.
Heavy rains and rapidly rising waters destroyed two dams in Derna, sending a late-night tidal wave, filling a dry river and crashing through the centre of the coastal city of 100,000 and sweeping entire residential blocks into the Mediterranean.
The water flowed several metres high, in what has been described by residents as a “tsunami”, and destroyed bridges linking the city’s eastern part to its west.
UN teams, including the children’s relief fund (UNICEF), refugee agency (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP), have been in and around Derna for the past few days to help the survivors.
Last week, the United Nations launched an aid appeal for more than $71 million for the emergency response in Derna and other parts of eastern Libya.