Libya: Death toll due to flood touches 5,300, thousands still missing

Libya, the African nation that witnessed the deadliest strike of flood caused by torrential downpours and the resultant smashing of two dams, is struggling to bury bodies which are piling up on the streets of badly-hit Derna city.

Catastrophic flooding breaks dams and sweeps away buildings and homes in Libya. Photo Courtesy: WHO

According to reports, the death toll due to the flood in the country is now 5,300 and thousands of people still remain missing.

Around 10,000 people have been reported missing in the massive floods triggered by Hurricane Daniel, which overwhelmed the eastern parts of the country at the weekend, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) earlier said.

The infrastructure in Derna has been damaged significantly with only two out of the seven entry points to the city currently remaining accessible.

Rescuers are trying to find bodies from underneath the debris.

“The Martyrs’ committee (has been set up to) identify the missing people and to implement procedures for identifying and burial of in accordance with Sharia and legal laws and standards,” Libya’s Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Adel Juma, told CNN.

The communication system in the country has been badly damaged by the natural disaster and people outside Libya are struggling to connect with their family members in the nation.

Ayah, a Palestinian woman who has relatives in Derna, said she has been unable to contact them since the floods.

“I’m really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. It seems all communications are down and I don’t know if they are alive at this point. It is very terrifying watching the videos coming out of Derna. We are all terrified,” she told CNN.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his heartfelt condolences to the Libyan authorities and the families of those who have perished,

“At this time, our thoughts are with the thousands of people being affected there in their communities, we stand in solidarity with all people in Libya during this difficult time,” said Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, briefing reporters in New York.

He said the UN team on the ground is responding at the site.

“Furthermore, we are mobilizing resources and emergency teams to support those affected people and are working with local, national, and international partners to get urgently needed humanitarian assistance to people in the affected areas,” Dujarric added.

The UN is working with Libyan authorities to assess needs and support ongoing relief efforts, he added.

The UN system is providing aid to areas in eastern Libya impacted by the weekend floods and a disaster assessment team has been deployed to support government response and relief operations, the UN said.

“Search and rescue operations are actively underway, led by national agencies, military, the Libyan Red Crescent and local volunteers,” said a statement released by the UN Spokesperson’s Office.

The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Georgette Gagnon, has tasked an emergency response team to support local authorities and partners.

A team from the Geneva-based UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) operation, part of humanitarian coordination office OCHA, has been deployed to support response and relief operations.

Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, announced on Tuesday an initial allocation of $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support those affected by the floods.

Oil-rich Libya has been split since 2014 between an interim, internationally recognised government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another one in the east, with many armed groups also operating on its territory. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 2020, but political rivalries continue.