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News, September 2023
11,300 Deaths Accounted for, About 10,000 More Expected in the Libyan City of Derna Alone, as a Result of the Storm Flood
September 15, 2023
Survivors of Libya's deadly floods describe catastrophic scenes and tragic losses
NPR, September 15, 2023
By Fatima Al-Kassab, LONDON —
For Ehdaa Bujeldain, an English teacher living with her family in Bab-Tobruk, in the mountains of Derna, eastern Libya, it sounded like a bomb going off in the middle of the night.
"On Sunday night, at 3 a.m., me and my family heard something like an explosion," she tells NPR by phone. "We lost electricity and connection. We didn't know what had happened. Then we heard it was a dam in Derna that had collapsed."
Four days passed with no electricity or internet, and it is only in the past couple of days that she and her family have started to learn the full extent of devastation from this week's floods.
With each day that passes, they learn of new losses — colleagues, friends and family that were killed in the floods.
"Half of the city vanished. My mum's relatives, my friends, my coworkers. They are all dead," Bujeldain says.
Najib Tarhoni, a doctor working in the nearest large hospital to Derna, in the city of Benghazi, has family members who survived the flood. They made it to safety in Benghazi, he says, but are forever changed.
"These people," he says, "are ghosts in shells. They have seen death, not just in their families but within themselves as well. Their souls are crushed, their hope is lost. How can you come back from such a thing? It's close to annihilation."
Five days on, figures vary for the number of dead from the catastrophic flooding that hit Derna. Libya's Red Crescent organization estimated Thursday that 11,300 people have died. The city's mayor said the death toll could reach 20,000.
Aid teams are arriving in the city, but their efforts have often been thwarted by damaged infrastructure and lack of access to power, water and fuel.
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths called the scale of the flood "appalling" and said it was a "massive reminder" of the challenges posed by climate change.
Derna is a Mediterranean coastal city bisected by a seasonal river, the Wadi Derna, that flows south from the highlands. For those living by the Wadi Derna valley, there was barely any warning before the floodwaters swept in, tsunami-like, in the early hours of Monday morning.
Nasib Almnsori is from Derna and now lives in nearby Tobruk, just over 100 miles away. He lost three cousins and their families in the flood. Other cousins who survived have come to stay with him.
The rainfall didn't seem unusual at first, he says. Every year, the Wadi Derna valley fills up with rainwater, creating the seasonal river. Family and friends were sending him videos of the rainwater in the valley on Sunday evening, just as they always have in past years.
This time though, the amount of rain from Storm Daniel was extraordinary. And then, at around 2 a.m. on Monday, two dams collapsed.
"The water reached the second floor of my cousin Seraj's house," he says. "He looked outside and saw a lot of water going into the house. He woke his family up and told them to go up onto the third floor, onto the roof, that's how they survived."
Almnsori says people living in single- or two-story houses by the Wadi Derna couldn't escape as easily.
The morning after, his brother made a difficult journey from Tobruk to Derna to look for relatives, confronting roads cut off by the floods. One of their cousins, 37-year-old Khadija, was missing.
"The situation was a disaster," he says. "People [were] buried under their houses. First they didn't find her, they only found her husband and the children, so they just kept looking. They didn't find her in the house because the flood took her away."
Only her five-year-old son, Fares, had survived.
"I know families where every single one of them died. No one stayed alive. Compared to my tragedy, that's really huge," Almnsori says.
The spokesperson of the eastern Libyan Interior Ministry, Tariq Al-Kharraz, told Al-Masar Libyan TV that so far there were 5,200 deaths, and 8,226 missing people in Derna city alone, as a result of the storm Daniel flood (which led to the breakdown of the two dams outside the city).
Al-Masar TV, Libya, September 12, 2023 10:00 ET
Since the NATO attack, the subsequent civil war, and division of the country to two parts, the dams have not been maintained. This led to Derna being the most impacted by the storm than other cities in Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar (the Green Mountain), in eastern Libya.
The Minister of Health in the eastern Libyan government confirmed the above numbers but added that these are not final. He also said that 25% of the city of Derna disappeared, as a result of the storm flood and the breakdown of the two dams.
Libyan floods: Derna city alone recovers 1,000 bodies - minister
BBC News, September 12, 2023
By Lucy Fleming
The death toll from floods in Libya in one city alone stands at more than 1,000, a senior official who visited the eastern port of Derna has said.
"Bodies are lying everywhere," the minister from the eastern-based government told Reuters news agency.
Much of Derna, which has about 100,000 residents, is under water after two dams and four bridges collapsed.
Up to 10,000 people are recorded to be missing after the flooding as a result of Storm Daniel, the Red Cross says.
The storm hit on Sunday also affecting the eastern cities of Benghazi, Soussa and Al-Marj.
"The number of bodies recovered in Derna is more [than] 1,000," Hichem Chkiouat, the aviation minister and part of the eastern government's emergency response committee, told Reuters by phone.
"I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed."
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya, has told reporters the death is likely to "huge".
Speaking via video link from neighbouring Tunisia, he said: "Our teams on the ground are still doing their assessment… we don't have a definite number right now. The number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far."
Earlier, Eastern Prime Minister Osama Hamad put the death toll at 2,000, telling a Libyan TV channel: "Entire neighbourhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents... swept away by water."
Alongside areas in the east, the western city of Misrata was among those hit by the floods.
Libya has been in political chaos since long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011 - leaving the country effectively split with an interim, internationally recognised government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another one in the east.
According to Libyan journalist Abdulkader Assad, this is hampering rescue efforts as the various authorities are not able to respond with agility to a natural disaster.
"There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years was about war," he told the BBC.
"There are two governments in Libya... and that is actually slowing down the help that is coming to Libya because it's a little bit confusing. You have people who are pledging help but the help is not coming."
The Tripoli-based administration has sent a plane with 14 tonnes of medical supplies, body bags and more than 80 doctors and paramedics.
The US special envoy to Libya, Richard Norton, has said that Washington is to send aid to eastern Libya in co-ordination with UN partners and the Libyan authorities.
Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or ready to send aid.
Flooding in Libya leaves 2,000 people feared dead and more missing after storm collapsed dams
BY SAMY MAGDY
September 11, 2023
CAIRO (AP) —
Mediterranean storm Daniel caused devastating floods in Libya that broke dams and swept away entire neighborhoods in multiple coastal towns in the east of the North African nation. As many as 2,000 people were feared dead, one of the country’s leaders said Monday.
The destruction appeared greatest in Derna, a city formerly held by Islamic extremists in the chaos that has gripped Libya for more than a decade and left it with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure. Libya remains divided between two rival administrations, one in the east and one in the west, each backed by militias and foreign governments.
The confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61 as of late Monday, according to health authorities. But the tally did not include Derna, which had become inaccessible, and many of the thousands missing there were believed carried away by waters after two upstream dams burst.
Video by residents of the city posted online showed major devastation. Entire residential areas were erased along a river that runs down from the mountains through the city center. Multistory apartment buildings that once stood well back from the river were partially collapsed into the mud.
In a phone interview with station Monday, Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government said 2,000 were feared dead in Derna and thousands were believed missing. He said Derna has been declared a disaster zone.
Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the country’s armed forces based in the east, told a news conference that the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000. He said there were between 5,000 and 6,000 reported missing. Al-Mosmari attributed the catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, causing a lethal flash flood.
Since a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has lacked a central government and the resulting lawlessness has meant dwindling investment in the country’s roads and public services and also minimal regulation of private building. The country is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias.
Derna itself, along with the city of Sirte, was controlled by extremist groups for years, at one point by those who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, until forces loyal to the east-based government expelled them in 2018.
At least 46 people were reported dead in the eastern town of Bayda, Abdel-Rahim Mazek, head of the town’s main medical center said. Another seven people were reported dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority. Seven others were reported dead in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, said Ossama Abduljaleel, health minister. One person was reported dead Sunday in the town of Marj.
The Libyan Red Crescent said three of its workers had died while helping families in Derna. Earlier, the group said it lost contact with one of its workers as he attempted to help a stuck family in Bayda. Dozens of others were reported missing, and authorities fear they could have died in the floods that destroyed homes and other properties in several towns in eastern Libya, according to local media.
In Derna, local media said the situation was catastrophic with no electricity or communications.
Esam Abu Zeriba, the interior minister of the east Libya government, said more than 5,000 people were expected to be missing in Derna. He said many of the victims were swept away towards the Mediterranean.
“The situation is tragic,” he declared in a telephone interview on the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya. He urged urged local and international agencies to rush to help the city.
Georgette Gagnon, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya, said early reports showed that dozens of villages and towns were “severely affected ... with widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life.”
“I am deeply saddened by the severe impact of (storm) Daniel on the country ... I call on all local, national, and international partners to join hands to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people in eastern Libya,” she wrote on X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
In a post on X, the U.S. Embassy in Libya said it was in contact with both the U.N. and Libyan authorities and was determining how to deliver aid to the most affected areas.
Over the weekend, Libyans shared footage on social media showing flooded houses and roads in many areas across eastern Libya. They pleaded for help as floods besieged people inside their homes and in their vehicles.
Osama Hamad, the prime minister of the east Libya government, declared Derna a disaster zone after heavy rainfall and floods destroyed much of the city which is located in the delta of the small Wadi Derna on Libya’s east coast. The prime minister also announced three days of mourning and ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-staff.
Controlling eastern and western Libya, Cmdr. Khalifa Hifter deployed troops to help residents in Benghazi and other eastern towns. Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesperson for Hifter’s forces, said they lost contact with five troops who were helping besieged families in Bayda.
Foreign governments sent messages of support on Monday evening. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, said his country would send humanitarian assistance and search-and-rescue teams to eastern Libya, according to the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency.
Turkey, which supports the country’s Tripoli-based government in the west, also expressed condolences, along with neighboring Algeria and Egypt, and also Iraq.
Storm Daniel is expected to arrive in parts of west Egypt on Monday, and the country’s meteorological authorities warned about possible rain and bad weather.
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