Libya has experienced extensive destruction after two dams broke Monday during Mediterranean Storm Daniel, sending water several metres high down a valley that goes through the middle of the Libyan city of Derna. Prior to the flooding, Derna had a population of 100,000 people.
As rescue efforts continue, over 11,000 people have been reported to be dead. A good portion of the city’s population is accounted for, however authorities are worrying that well over 10,000 could still be missing.
The Search and its Problems
Rescue efforts, though ongoing, are being complicated by a number of factors. Namely, when the flood initially happened it took out a lot of the bridges and roadways that led into Derna, making it difficult to get both supplies and personnel into the city. It was largely due to this that aid did not reach the city until 36 hours after flooding struck.
Additionally, Derna is a coastal city, and reportedly a large number of bodies have been washed away into the ocean, some of which are washing back up on shore. Regional Forensics Manager for Africa of the Red Cross, Bilal Sablouh, said “in just two hours, one of my colleagues counted over 200 bodies on the beach near Derna”.
Derna is under control of the Eastern Libyan forces, headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Eastern Libya’s weaker central government has also been causing issues in search efforts, as the lack of oversight of rescue efforts has caused rescuers to search and deliver supplies to some areas of the city, but not others, where residents had to attempt to dig themselves and others out with little outside help.
Given the amount of bodies sent into the ocean, Libya has deployed divers to comb the coastline in their search.
Although rescue efforts continue, hopes are not high for finding many of those still missing to be alive.
Already, Eastern Libyan authorities have began burying those found dead in mass graves. Derna residents were also promised evacuation today, September 15th, however seemingly no such evacuations have taken place.
International organizations have warned of the risk of disease if residents are not supplied with safe water, due to the extensive amount of still water left by the floods.
As it presently stands, Derna has lost at least a tenth of its population.