12 September 2023
Officials in Libya say as many as 10,000 people are missing after severe flooding in the northeastern part of the country.
The flooding began when Mediterranean Storm Daniel dropped heavy rain on the area beginning Sunday night.
As of Tuesday, more than 1,000 bodies had been recovered in the city of Derna alone. Emergency workers say they expect the number of dead to climb sharply.
Flooding led to the collapse of at least two dams outside Derna, a coastal city of about 89,000 people, local officials said. A wall of water that passed through the city "erased everything in its way," witness Ahmed Abdalla told the Associated Press.
A local minister of civil air travel in the country's east told Reuters news agency after visiting Derna that bodies were "lying everywhere," including the sea, in valleys and under buildings.
The minister local officials estimated about 25 percent of Derna had disappeared, with "many, many buildings" destroyed.
Storm Daniel hit other eastern Libyan towns, including Benghazi, the second largest city in the country. Tamer Ramadan is head of a delegation from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He told Reuters the number of missing had hit 10,000 and the total number of deaths would be "huge."
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, that emergency teams had been deployed to help on the ground. Turkey and other countries immediately sent aid to Libya, including search and rescue vehicles, rescue boats, power generators and food.
People living in Derna reported hearing loud explosions Sunday night as the storm arrived and they realized dams outside the city had collapsed.
Videos posted online showed large areas of mud and wreckage where floodwaters carried away neighborhoods along banks of the Wadi Derna river. The river runs from the mountains through the city and into the sea.
Local emergency workers – including troops, government workers and volunteers – dug through the wreckage and used boats to search for bodies.
Eastern Libya's health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, told the AP that many bodies are believed to be trapped under wreckage or had been carried out to the sea.
Military commander Khalifa Hifter currently leads the east Libya government. He captured Derna in 2019 after months of fierce fighting. Hifter's government, based in Benghazi, is fighting the western government based in the capital, Tripoli.
Each side is backed by powerful militias and foreign powers. Egypt, Russia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates support Hifter. Turkey, Qatar and Italy support the west Libya administration.
There were early signs the two sides were willing to work together on aid efforts. The government of western Libya sent a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies and health workers to Benghazi. Another plane, carrying humanitarian aid and rescue teams from Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, also landed in Benghazi.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
erase – v. to completely remove something