Libya Save the Children is racing to bury its dead as bodies pile up in the streets of Derna, the northern coastal city devastated by floods after heavy rains breached two dams, sweeping homes into the sea.
The death toll has risen to more than 6,000 people as of Wednesday morning local time, according to Saad Eddin Abdel Wakil, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health in the Unity Government in Tripoli, one of two rival governments operating in the country.
Mortuaries are full in hospitals that remain out of service despite the urgent need to treat survivors of the disaster, according to staff. In Egypt, the government buried 87 Egyptian victims who died in Libya, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigration.
Authorities say about 10,000 more people are missing, likely swept out to sea or buried under rubble scattered across the city that was home to more than 100,000 people.
The United Nations International Organization for Migration in Libya said on Wednesday that more than 30,000 people were displaced due to floods in Derna.
Significant damage to infrastructure in the area has made it difficult for humanitarian groups to reach some of the affected areas. Only two of the seven entry points into Derna are now available.
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Emergency teams are searching piles of rubble for survivors and bodies, while officials try to respect Islamic beliefs that stipulate that the dead must undergo burial rituals within three days.
The Libyan Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Adel Jumaa, said, “The Martyrs Committee (was formed) to determine the identity of the missing and implement procedures for identifying them and burying them in accordance with Sharia and legal laws and standards.”
The devastation caused by Storm Daniel has made the huge task more difficult for rescuers trying to clear roads and debris to find survivors.
The storm cut off communications, frustrating rescue efforts and causing anxiety among family members outside Libya awaiting news of their missing loved ones.
Aya, a Palestinian woman with cousins in Derna, said she was unable to do so Contact them since the floods.
“I’m really worried about them. I have two cousins who live in Derna. All communications seem to be down and I don’t know if they are alive at this point. It’s very terrifying to watch the videos coming from Derna. We are all terrified,” she told CNN. .
Libya was shaken by the 2011 uprising against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi and torn by civil war. The scale of the destruction highlights the vulnerability of the country, which has been plagued by warring factions and chaos for years.
The UN-backed Government of National Unity, led by Abdul Hamid Dabaiba, is based in Tripoli in northwestern Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by Commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, which supports the parliament based in the east. Led by Osama Hamad.
Derna is located about 300 kilometers east of Benghazi, and is under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, urged all Libyan political actors to overcome “political impasses and divisions” and act collectively, in a statement issued on Wednesday.
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Storm Daniel It appears to have caused one of the deadliest floods on record in North Africa.
The very strong low pressure system moved into the Mediterranean Sea before developing into a tropical cyclone and crossing the Libyan coast. Daniel also brought unprecedented flooding to Greece last week, where the death toll was much lower.
The deadly storm comes in an unprecedented year of climate disasters and record-breaking extreme weather events, from devastating wildfires to extreme heat.
While the floods affected many cities across the region, Derna suffered the greatest damage after two dams collapsed, submerging entire neighborhoods in floods. sea.
Osama Ali, spokesman for the emergency and ambulance service, said: “Libya was not prepared for a disaster like this.”
Abdullah Muhammad Bonga/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A damaged car stuck among the rubble after floods caused by Storm Daniel in Derna on September 12.
Medical workers on the ground in Derna described scenes of bodies piling up near local hospitals, while aid workers struggled to bury thousands of victims who had died.
Dr. Anas Al-Barghathi, head of Al-Kuwayfiya Hospital in Benghazi, is a volunteer in Derna. “The situation is catastrophic,” he told CNN.
His colleague, Dr. Aisha, said: “We call on all concerned parties and international relief agencies to intervene quickly and urgently to end these disastrous conditions.”
“The situation is terrible. There are too many deaths. We are now facing the problem of not being able to deal with these bodies, or bury them. We are trying to obtain appropriate humanitarian aid to transfer these bodies to refrigerators.
“We need the right groups to take urgent action and step in to help identify the DNA of these bodies… Of course in the meantime, there is nothing we can do to prevent this environmental disaster from erupting.
“These are only half of the bodies we saw,” she added. “There are other bodies on the other side of the city.”
Issam Omran Al-Faytouri/Reuters
People walk past flood-damaged homes in Derna, Libya, on Wednesday.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has urgently called on the international community to address the “catastrophic humanitarian crisis unfolding in Libya.”
Elie Abu Aoun, director of the International Rescue Committee in Libya, said that the committee is “deeply concerned about the protection needs of those caught up in this tragedy, especially the thousands of women and children who are forced to leave their homes in search of safety.”
Abu Aoun said that many hospitals have become unable to deal with the numbers of survivors who need treatment, adding that fears of waterborne diseases are increasing pressure on health systems in Libya.
“Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities will be essential to prevent another crisis within a crisis.”
Countries and organizations send help
Foreign aid is now flowing into the country. On Wednesday, Tunisia, Libya’s western neighbor, sent a search and rescue team consisting of about 52 people. This includes four search dogs, three doctors, a diving team and a water extraction unit, the official Tunisian News Agency reported.
The official Libyan News Agency said that eight Algerian army planes carrying humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, clothes and tents, also began arriving in Libya on Wednesday.
EU member states, including Germany, Romania and Finland, offered tents, field beds, blankets, 80 generators and food items, as well as hospital tents and water tanks through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism.
The European Union also released an initial amount of 500,000 euros ($540,000) in humanitarian funding, after the Libyan authorities requested international aid.
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A Turkish plane carrying humanitarian aid arrived in Libya on Tuesday, according to Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would send 168 search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid to Benghazi, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Toys in a flood-affected store in Derna, on September 11.
The country’s Civil Protection Department said on Tuesday that Italy would send a civil defense team to assist in rescue operations.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Tripoli announced that its special envoy, Ambassador Richard Norland, issued an official declaration of humanitarian need.
This “will allow for initial funding to be provided by the United States to support relief efforts in Libya.” “We are coordinating with UN partners and Libyan authorities to evaluate how best to target official US assistance.”
The Emirates News Agency reported that the President of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed Al Nahyan, directed the dispatch of relief, search and rescue teams, offering his condolences to those affected by the disaster.
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