Thousands of people are feared dead in Libya after Storm Daniel brought so much rain to the northeast that two dams collapsed in one region, washing entire neighborhoods into the sea.
More than 2,000 people have died and about 6,000 more are missing in the hard-hit city of Derna, said Othman Abduljalil, health minister in the government backed by Libya’s eastern parliament.
“The situation (in Derna) was catastrophic… The bodies are still lying in many places,” Abduljalil told Libyan Almasar TV from Derna on Monday.
Abduljalil described Derna as a “ghost city” and said parts of the city had been cut off by flooding. He called on the international community for help and said authorities need search and rescue teams.
The Libyan Red Crescent previously estimated that more than 300 people had died in Derna, according to a report mail on social networks.
Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said two dams had collapsed under flood pressure.
“As a result, three bridges were destroyed. The water that flowed took away entire neighborhoods and finally deposited them in the sea,” he said.
The head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority, Osama Aly, told CNN that after the dam collapsed “all the water went to an area near Derna, which is a mountainous coastal area.”
Houses in the valleys were swept away by strong mudflows that carried vehicles and debris, he added. Telephone lines in the city are also down, complicating rescue efforts, Aly said, and workers are unable to enter Derna because of the extensive destruction.
Aly said authorities did not anticipate the magnitude of the disaster.
“The weather conditions were not well studied, the sea water levels and precipitation (were not studied), the wind speed, there was no evacuation of families that could be in the path of the storm and in the valleys,” he said. Aly.
“Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like that. I had never witnessed that level of catastrophe before. We admit that there were shortcomings even though this is the first time we have faced that level of catastrophe,” Aly previously told Al Hurra channel.
ENL spokesperson Mismari said the floods have affected several cities, including Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Tobruk, Takenis, Al-Bayada and Battah, as well as the eastern coast as far as Benghazi.
Libya, a country of six million people, has been divided between warring factions since 2014, following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.
The head of Libya’s eastern parliament-backed government, Osama Hamad, described the situation as “catastrophic and unprecedented,” according to a report by the state news organization Libya News Agency (LANA).
Images shared on social media showed submerged cars, collapsed buildings and torrents of water rushing through the streets.
Hospitals in the eastern city of Bayda were evacuated after severe flooding caused by rain triggered by a heavy storm, videos shared by Bayda Medical Center on Facebook show.
“The United Nations in Libya is closely monitoring the emergency caused by severe weather conditions in the eastern region of the country,” the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said in a post on X.
Several countries have sent their condolences and offered help to Libya as rescue teams race to find survivors under rubble and rubble.
Turkey’s disaster agency said Monday it will mobilize 150 search and rescue personnel, along with tents, rescue vehicles and other supplies such as a generator.
The US Embassy in Libya said on X, formally known as Twitter, that it was in “close contact with the United Nations and with authorities in Libya to determine how quickly we can get assistance where it is needed most.”
The President of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed Al Nahyan, has ordered the dispatch of aid and search and rescue teams while offering his condolences to those affected by the disaster, the state news agency reported.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also expressed his condolences to Libya. “I wish a speedy recovery to the injured and hope that the crisis will pass quickly with Libyans united in unity,” El-Sisi said in a statement on social media.
The weekend rain is the result of the remnants of a very strong low pressure system, which national meteorological services in southeastern Europe officially named Storm Daniel.
The storm brought Catastrophic floods in Greece last week before moving toward the Mediterranean and becoming a tropical-type cyclone known as medicate. These systems can bring dangerous conditions to the Mediterranean Sea and coastal countries, similar to tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic or typhoons in the Pacific.
The remnants of the storm are affecting northern Libya and will slowly head east towards northern Egypt. Rainfall over the next two days could reach 50 mm; In this region the average is less than 10 mm throughout September.