Libyan authorities have sealed off a city in order to conduct search operations for the 10,000 people who are missing and feared dead after severe flooding. The official death toll has surpassed 11,000, and there are concerns that disease and explosives may take even more lives.
The flooding occurred after two dams collapsed during heavy rains caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel. These floods, combined with the political chaos in Libya, have contributed to the high number of casualties. Since 2014, the country has been split between rival governments backed by various militia forces and international patrons.
Despite the political divide, government agencies from both sides have come together to assist the affected areas. However, relief efforts have been hindered by the destruction of several bridges that connect the city.
The streets of Derna are now filled with twisted metal and flooded cars, covered in tan mud. Many bodies have already been buried in mass graves outside the city and in nearby towns. However, authorities believe that there are still thousands of bodies hidden in the mud or floating in the sea.
Standing water poses a risk of disease, and health officials have emphasized the importance of providing safe water to the affected population. Additionally, there is a concern that landmines and other explosive remnants left behind by the country’s protracted conflict may be hidden in the mud.
To allow emergency crews to carry out their work, residents are being evacuated from Derna, and only search-and-rescue teams are permitted to enter the city. The Libyan Red Crescent reports that 11,300 people have died in Derna, with another 10,100 reported missing. The storm has also claimed about 170 lives elsewhere in the country.
The devastating floods and the lack of preparedness by authorities have led to anger and frustration among the residents. The political instability in Libya has further contributed to the loss of life, as government institutions are not functioning effectively.
The situation in Derna is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for disaster preparedness and effective governance in vulnerable regions.