Satellite images have captured the extent of the physical devastation caused by a flood in the eastern Libyan city of Derna, which claimed the lives of over 11,300 people. The flood occurred after two dams above Derna burst under the pressure of heavy rainfall from a storm on September 11. The force of the water swept away large sections of the low-lying downtown area, which were carried into the Mediterranean Sea.
Eyewitnesses reported hearing loud explosions as the dams broke, leading to a flood several meters high that cascaded down the mountainside into the city. Aerial images taken from approximately 400 miles above the Earth’s surface highlight the presence of a brown layer of mud and debris covering the entire city.
The death toll has risen significantly, with 11,300 confirmed fatalities and an additional 10,100 people reported missing. The search for survivors continues amidst the mud and debris, including overturned cars and chunks of concrete. The Libyan Red Crescent has been leading the rescue efforts.
The satellite images also reveal the extent of the damage to Derna’s shoreline and shallow waters, which have turned visibly brown due to the dirt and debris carried by the flood. Many bodies swept out to sea have returned with the tide, according to rescue workers.
The flood has led to the displacement of at least 30,000 people in Derna alone, as reported by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration. Additionally, several thousand individuals in other eastern towns have been forced to leave their homes. Bridges and other infrastructure, particularly those near the Wadi Derna river, have been completely destroyed.
Due to the severe damage to roads, aid has only started to trickle into the city as of September 12. The recovery and rebuilding process is expected to be long and challenging.