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Libya: At least 2,300 dead in catastrophic floods

At least 2,300 people were killed in catastrophic floods that tore through the Libyan city of Derna, the emergency services said Tuesday, but a far higher death toll is feared.

As global concern spread, multiple nations offered to urgently send aid and rescue teams to help the war-scarred country that has been overwhelmed by what one UN official labelled “a calamity of epic proportions”.
Massive destruction shattered the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna, home to about 100,000 people, where multi-storey buildings on the river banks collapsed and houses and cars vanished in the raging waters.
Emergency services under the divided country’s internationally recognised government reported an initial death toll of more than 2,300 in Derna alone and said over 5,000 people remained missing while about 7,000 were injured.

But officials from the rival government in eastern Libya said “thousands” more perished in the floods in Derna and that the death toll could surpass 10,000. The floods were caused by torrential rains from Storm Daniel, which made landfall in Libya on Sunday after earlier lashing Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Derna, 250 kilometres (150 miles) east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, but which has turned into a raging torrent of mud-brown water that also swept away several major bridges.

“The death toll is huge and might reach thousands,” said Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, adding that 10,000 people were missing.

Elsewhere in Libya’s east, aid group the Norwegian Refugee Council said “entire villages have been overwhelmed by the floods and the death toll continues to rise”.

“Communities across Libya have endured years of conflict, poverty and displacement. The latest disaster will exacerbate the situation for these people. Hospitals and shelters will be overstretched.”
Footage on Libyan TV showed dozens of bodies, wrapped in blankets or sheets, on Derna’s main square awaiting identification and burial, and more bodies in Martouba village to the southeast.

More than 300 victims were buried Monday — but vastly greater numbers were feared lost in the river that empties into the Mediterranean. The storm also hit Benghazi and the hill district of Jabal al-Akhdar. Flooding, mudslides and other major damage were reported from the wider region, with images showing overturned cars and trucks.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation, which has its main fields and terminals in eastern Libya, declared “a state of maximum alert” and suspended flights between production sites where it said activity was drastically reduced. Oil-rich Libya is still recovering from the years of war and chaos that followed the 2011 NATO-backed popular uprising which toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The country is divided between two rival governments — the UN-brokered, internationally recognised administration based in Tripoli, and a separate administration in the disaster-hit east.

Source: eNCA

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