Catastrophic Floods in Libya Claim Over 5,000 Lives, Leaving Thousands Homeless

Derna, Libya – The coastal city of Derna in Libya is grappling with a catastrophic aftermath of a flash flood that claimed the lives of at least 5,100 people. The calamity was triggered by the collapse of two dams following a Mediterranean storm, Daniel, which hit the city on Sunday night.

The floodwaters, originating from the mountains above the city, swept through the city center, causing extensive damage. The deluge washed away entire city blocks, leaving a quarter of the city in ruins, according to emergency officials. The floodwaters, reaching as high as 7 meters (23 feet), inundated the second story of many buildings, leading to a massive displacement of people.

Emad al-Falah, an aid worker from Benghazi, described the grim situation in Derna. He reported finding bodies everywhere – inside houses, on the streets, and even at sea. The flood has left tens of thousands homeless, with thousands still missing. “Entire families were lost,” al-Falah said.

The city’s geographical location, nestled on a narrow coastal plain beneath steep mountains, has further complicated rescue and relief efforts. The city’s access roads have been washed away, and the remaining routes involve a long, winding journey through the mountains. The city center has been split due to collapsed bridges over the river, further impeding movement.

Ossama Ali, a spokesperson for an ambulance center in eastern Libya, confirmed the death toll in Derna, along with around 100 others in eastern Libya. He warned that the death toll is likely to rise as teams continue to collect bodies. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reported that at least 30,000 people in Derna were displaced by the flooding.

International aid has started to arrive in Derna from neighboring countries and beyond. Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates have sent rescue teams and aid. The U.K. and German governments have also sent assistance, including blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tents, water filters, and generators. U.S. President Joe Biden pledged financial support to relief organizations and coordination with Libyan authorities and the United Nations for additional support.

The flood’s impact extends beyond Derna, affecting other areas in eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, and Marj. The country’s vulnerability is highlighted by the disaster, with its divided government and neglected infrastructure contributing to the devastation.