Search teams are scouring streets, collapsed buildings and even the sea for bodies after a catastrophic flood hit the northeastern coastal town of Derna. Authorities report that at least 5,300 people are presumed dead, and the death toll is expected to rise.
“Everywhere you go you find dead men, women and children,” Emad al-Falah, a Benghazi aid worker, said by telephone from Derna. Emergency teams are working around the clock to find survivors and recover bodies after the disaster struck three days ago, killing more than 5,000 people and leaving 10,000 missing.
A city in ruins
Aerial images and eyewitness videos circulating on social media paint a grim picture. Entire neighborhoods have been swept away by water, hospitals are no longer functioning and morgues are overwhelmed. Cars overturned amid the debris and roofs collapsed. Satellite images corroborate the destruction, showing an entire city swept away by water and sand.
Chaos amplifies the crisis
Adding to the difficulties of the rescue efforts is Libya’s political fragmentation. The country is divided between two rival administrations, making it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The city of Derna, most affected by the floods, falls under the control of Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based government, which is not internationally recognized.
Despite climate forecasts warning several days in advance of an imminent disaster, local authorities were slow to act. “We are not equipped to handle this level of damage,” admitted General Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesperson for the Libyan National Army in the east.
The enigma of international aid
Humanitarian aid is flowing into Libya from various countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy and Algeria. However, political division in the country complicates where aid should go. Most countries send aid to Benghazi, the closest major city to Derna, with the exception of Algeria, which sent aid to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.
The climate change factor
These devastating floods are the result of a strong depression which also affected Greece last week. Experts suggest that warmer surface temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea, a symptom of global climate change, may have intensified the storm.
“While no formal attribution of the role of climate change in the intensification of Storm Daniel has yet been established, it is safe to say that Mediterranean Sea surface temperatures have been significantly above average throughout throughout the summer,” said climatologist and researcher Karsten Haustein. meteorologist.
With thousands of people still missing, tens of thousands homeless and entire communities grieving, the need for international assistance and a coordinated emergency response is more crucial than ever.
Some information in this story came from Al Jazeera and CNN.