Deadly floods swept across northeastern Libya over the weekend, with the region’s top official warning that the death toll could exceed 2,000 as rescue teams searched for survivors.
The Libyan Red Crescent, a nonprofit humanitarian organization whose volunteers helped evacuate residents, said As of Monday evening, more than 300 people had died in floods in the eastern Libyan port city of Derna. And more than 5,000 to 6,000 people are missing due to flooding in the town, apparently caused by the collapse of dams above Derna, according to a spokesman for the Libyan National Army which controls the east of Libya, according to the Associated Press.
Exact figures on the extent of the deaths were difficult due to ongoing search efforts Monday, a spokesperson for the region’s authorities said Monday evening.
Libya is divided between an internationally recognized government based in Tripoli and a separately administered region to the east.
It was not immediately clear what the leader of the divided country’s eastern region, Osama Hamad, or military spokesman Ahmed Mismari were basing their figures on. But flooding was concentrated in the region under Mr Hamad’s administration, parts of which were later declared a disaster area and rescuers struggled to access the area to deliver aid.
The internationally recognized authority in western Libya, in Tripoli, has not released casualty figures, but its leaders held an emergency meeting Monday on the crisis and said they had sent ambulances, rescue convoys and doctors on site. They declared three days of mourning for the flood victims.
For years, Libya has been divided between two rival governments and prime ministers – and the militias they control.
Heavy weekend rains in the country’s northeast caused waters to swell beyond river banks and officials said the force of floodwaters swept away hundreds of homes and washed away roads. According to images posted on social media, stranded residents posted testimonies that they were stuck in homes and cars.
“Entire neighborhoods were swept away by the sea and entire neighborhoods disappeared with their inhabitants,” Mr. Hamad said in a telephone interview with the Libyan ministry. al-Masar TV channel Monday from Derna, one of the worst-hit towns.
Floods also ravaged other areas, including the towns of Al-Bayda and Shahhat, where rising waters forced more evacuations. A medical center in Al-Bayda said it had been forced to move patients and shared images of workers desperately trying to sweep floodwaters out of submerged corridors.
It is Derna who seems to have suffered the most. Local authorities in the port city declared the area a disaster zone, with large parts of the city submerged by water. Roads leading to the city have been cut, according to town hall confirmed Monday on his Facebook page. It called for the opening of a sea passage to the coastal city and urgent international intervention.
“The situation is catastrophic,” the Council said. “The city of Derna is calling for help. »
Neighborhood residents described chaotic scenes.
“What happened is a tragedy and a humanitarian disaster for us,” said Mohammed Jadallah, a resident of Derna who woke up his three children and fled the town on Sunday evening after the water began to flood. infiltrate his house because of the intensifying rains. Since then, with communications cut off, he has been unable to reach his siblings and has been unable to return to Derna due to road collapses.
“We don’t know where our families are, we don’t have a home and we have heard that there are a significant number of victims,” he said, adding that he had already seen photos of his house, which were destroyed. carried away. “We became displaced.”
Many of the bodies of victims in Derna were scattered around the city due to flooding, said Mohammed Abulammousha, spokesman for the Hamad government’s interior ministry. In a telephone interview Monday evening, he said he witnessed “horrible scenes.”
He cited the lack of relief capacity and difficulties in accessing some of the affected areas. But he said authorities were trying to rescue survivors, provide them with food and evacuate them from devastated areas of the city.
“We call on international organizations and countries to help us deal with the disaster that has befallen the city,” he said.
Some foreign governments and humanitarian groups have offered help. The US Embassy in Libya said the X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that they were in close contact with the United Nations and Libyan authorities to quickly provide aid. An emergency team was being prepared to support local authorities and parties, said Georgette Gagnon, the UN humanitarian coordinator.
The UAE also said it would send emergency relief and rescue teams to Libya, according to to the UAE state news agency.
The torrential rains were part of a weather front that had unleashed Major floods in Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria last week swept away buildings and killed more than a dozen people before heading toward Libya.