Libya asks for international help as 2,000 people feared dead in flood

Libya has asked for international help with around 2,000 people feared dead after a massive flood ripped through the city of Derna following a powerful storm.

Mediterranean Storm Daniel has caused catastrophic flooding, resulting in the complete engulfing of entire neighbourhoods after it hit the country’s eastern region.

On Monday night, Libya’s government declared the eastern Cyrenaica province as a disaster area.

Earlier, the head of the Red Crescent aid group in the region claimed the number of confirmed dead was 150, with that figure expected to rise to 250.

Pic: Libya Almasar TV/AP

In a phone interview with al Masar television station Monday, Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government said that 2,000 were feared dead in Derna, and thousands were believed missing.

Ahmed al Mismari, the spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA) that controls eastern Libya, said the disaster came after dams above Derna collapsed, “sweeping whole neighbourhoods with their residents into the sea”.

He said the number of those who had died was over 2,000 and estimated the number of missing individuals to be between 5,000 and 6,000.

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Abdel-Rahim Mazek, the head of the primary medical centre in the eastern town of Bayda, has so far reported at least 46 deaths.

In the northeastern coastal town of Susa, the ambulance and emergency service confirmed the loss of seven lives.

A damaged car on a road in the city of Shahhat, Libya

And in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, health minister Ossama Abduljaleel reported seven more deaths.

Meanwhile, one person was reported dead in the town of Marj on Sunday.

Libya remains politically divided between its eastern and western regions, and the public services have deteriorated since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, which triggered years of ongoing conflict.

The internationally recognised government in Tripoli does not exercise control over the eastern territories.

Streets flooded in Marj, al Libya. Pic: AP

Many of the thousands who are currently unaccounted for are believed to have been swept away by the floodwater.

Videos shared by residents online revealed the extent of the devastation, with entire residential areas obliterated along a river that traverses the city centre, originating from the mountains.

Multi-storey apartment buildings which were situated a considerable distance from the river are now partially collapsed in the mud.

People in their cars are stuck on a damaged road in Shahhat

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People stand on a damaged road in Shahhat

Amidst the disaster, Mr Hamad announced three days of mourning and ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-mast.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, spokesperson for the country’s armed forces based in the east, announced during a news conference that the number of people dead in Derna had exceeded 2,000. He attributed the catastrophic event to the collapse of two nearby dams, leading to a deadly flash flood.

Flooded streets after storm Danial in Marj, Libya
Pic: Libya Almasar TV/AP

Since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has lacked a central government, resulting in lawlessness, limited investment in infrastructure, and minimal regulation of construction.

The country is now divided between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by various militias. Derna and Sirte were under extremist control, including ISIS-affiliated groups, until they were ousted by forces loyal to the eastern-based government in 2018.