Searchers race to recover bodies in Libya as death toll from flooding hits 5,100

  • An enormous flash flood in the coastal Libyan metropolis of Derna, triggered by the collapse of two dams, has left over 5,100 individuals useless, with hundreds nonetheless lacking and tens of hundreds homeless.
  • The metropolis has been struggling to obtain assist due to washed-out entry roads. 
  • This catastrophe has uncovered Libya’s vulnerability and uncared for infrastructure, with the nation divided by rival governments. 

Search groups combed streets, wrecked buildings and even the ocean Wednesday to search for bodies in a coastal Libyan metropolis the place the collapse of two dams unleashed a large flash flood that killed at least 5,100 people.

The Mediterranean metropolis of Derna has struggled to get assist after Sunday night time’s deluge washed away most entry roads. Aid staff who managed to attain town described devastation in its heart, with hundreds nonetheless lacking and tens of hundreds left homeless.

“Bodies are everywhere, inside houses, in the streets, at sea. Wherever you go, you find dead men, women, and children,” Emad al-Falah, an assist employee from Benghazi, mentioned over the telephone from Derna. “Entire families were lost.”

Mediterranean storm Daniel induced lethal flooding Sunday in many cities of jap Libya, however the worst-hit was Derna. Two dams in the mountains above town collapsed, sending floodwaters roaring down the Wadi Derna river and thru town heart, sweeping away complete metropolis blocks.

As a lot as 1 / 4 of town has disappeared, emergency officers mentioned.


Waves rose as excessive as 23 ft, Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya, advised broadcaster France24.

Mohammed Derna, a trainer in town, mentioned he, his household and neighbors rushed to the roof of their condo constructing, shocked on the quantity of water dashing by. It reached the second story of many buildings, he mentioned. They watched individuals beneath, together with girls and kids being washed away.

“They were screaming, ‘Help, help,’” he mentioned over the telephone from a discipline hospital in Derna. “It was like a Hollywood horror movie.”

Derna lies on a slim coastal plain, beneath steep mountains. Only two roads from the south stay usable, and so they contain a protracted, winding route via the mountains.

Collapsed bridges over the river break up town heart, additional hampering motion.


Search groups went via shattered condo buildings and retrieved the useless floating offshore in the Mediterranean Sea, al-Falah mentioned.

Ossama Ali, a spokesman for an ambulance heart in jap Libya, mentioned a minimum of 5,100 deaths had been recorded in Derna, together with round 100 others elsewhere in jap Libya. More than 7,000 individuals in town had been injured.

A spokesman for the jap Libyan inside ministry put the death tally in Derna at greater than 5,300, in accordance to the state-run information company.

The variety of deaths was doubtless to enhance since groups are nonetheless gathering bodies, Ali mentioned. At least 9,000 persons are lacking, however that quantity might drop as communications are restored.

At least 30,000 individuals in Derna had been displaced by the flooding, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration mentioned.

A basic view of town of Derna is seen on on Sept. 12, 2023, after Mediterranean storm Daniel induced devastating floods in Libya that broke dams and swept away complete neighborhoods.  (AP Photo/Jamal Alkomaty)

The startling devastation pointed to the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. The nation is split by rival governments, one in the east, the opposite in the west, and the outcome has been neglect of infrastructure in many areas.

Ahmed Abdalla, a survivor who joined the search-and-rescue effort, mentioned they had been placing bodies in the yard of a hospital earlier than taking them for burial in mass graves at Derna’s sole intact cemetery.

“The situation is indescribable. Entire families dead in this disaster. Some were washed away to the sea,” Abdalla mentioned by telephone.

Derna is 150 miles east of Benghazi, the place worldwide assist began to arrive on Tuesday.

Neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, as nicely as Turkey, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, despatched rescue groups and assist. The German authorities despatched assist, together with blankets, sleeping baggage, sleeping mats, tents, water filters and turbines.


U.S. President Joe Biden additionally mentioned the United States would ship cash to aid organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to present further assist.

Authorities transferred lots of of bodies to morgues in close by cities. More than 300, together with 84 Egyptians, had been introduced to the morgue in town of Tobruk, 105 miles east of Derna, the native Medical Center reported.

The victims’ lists mirrored how Libya, regardless of its turmoil, was at all times a magnet for staff from across the area due to its oil trade.

More than 70 of Derna’s useless hailed from a single southern Egyptian village, el-Sharif. On Wednesday morning, lots of attended a mass funeral in the village for 64 individuals.

Rabei Hanafy mentioned his prolonged household misplaced 16 males in the flooding, 12 of whom had been buried Wednesday. Another funeral for 4 others was held in a city in the northern Nile Delta.


Among these killed in Libya was the household of Saleh Sariyeh, a Palestinian initially from the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon who had lived in Derna for many years. The 62-year-old, his spouse and two daughters had been all killed when their house in Derna was washed away, his nephew Mohammed Sariyeh mentioned.

The 4 had been buried in Derna. Because of ongoing gunbattles in Ein el-Hilweh, the household there couldn’t maintain a gathering to obtain condolences from associates and neighbors, Mohammed mentioned.

Derna, about 560 miles east of the capital, Tripoli, is managed by the forces of highly effective navy commander Khalifa Hifter, who’s allied with the jap Libyan authorities. The rival authorities in western Libya, primarily based in Tripoli, is allied with different armed teams.

Derna was as soon as a hub for extremist teams in the years of chaos that adopted the NATO-backed rebellion that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

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