Libya floods: Local authorities say thousands killed as Storm Daniel wrecks Derna

Authorities and the Red Crescent scrambled to assess disaster on Monday evening

Flooding caused by Mediterranean Storm Daniel in Shahat, Libya, on Monday. Photo: Libyan News Agency
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The Libyan government has declared the city of Derna a disaster zone, with at least 2,000 people killed and thousands more missing after flash floods caused by Mediterranean Storm Daniel.

Ahmed Mismari, the spokesman for the Libyan National Army, which controls eastern Libya, said in a televised news conference that the disaster came after dams above Derna had collapsed, “sweeping whole neighbourhoods with their residents into the sea”.

Mr Mismari put the number of missing at 5,000 to 6,000.

The storm intensified overnight as it made landfall on the Libyan coast at the weekend, leaving a trail of flooding and destruction, as Egypt braces for it to hit western parts of the country.

“At least 150 people were killed as a result of flooding and torrential rains left by Storm Daniel in Derna, the Jabal Al Akhdar region and the suburbs of Al Marj,” Mohamed Massoud, a spokesman for the administration, told AFP.

The sentiment was echoed by the Red Crescent in Benghazi, whose director, Kais Fhakeri, told Reuters on Monday that the death toll could rise to 250.

Prime Minister Osama Hamad, of Libya's eastern-based government, told Al Masar TV station on Monday night that more than 2,000 people had been killed, with thousands of others missing amid the destruction.

The reason for the wide discrepancy in casualty estimates was not immediately clear, but images on social media showed that a large section of the city appeared to have been washed away in a muddy deluge.

The Libyan Red Crescent said it had lost contact with one of its workers as he tried to help a family stuck in Al Bayda.

A spokesman from the Libyan Presidential Council announced a three-day mourning period on Monday afternoon.

The UAE and Qatar have offered their condolences.

In a statement on Monday, the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its sincere condolences and sympathy “to the state of Libya and its people, and to the families of the victims of this tragedy, as well as its wishes for a speedy recovery for all the injured”.

Sheikh Tamim, the Emir of Qatar, ordered his government to send aid to Libyan areas hit by the storm, the Qatari News Agency reported on Monday.

Tunisian President Kais Saied also ordered financial and volunteer assistance be sent to Libya.

Footage on social media showed people stranded on the roofs of their vehicles in heavy floods as Storm Daniel hit Benghazi, Sousse, Al Bayda, Al Marj and Derna.

“We were asleep and when we woke up we found water besieging the house. We are inside and trying to get out,” Derna resident Ahmed Mohamed told Reuters by phone on Monday.

At least one man was confirmed dead due to the storm after he became trapped inside his car amid the heavy flooding. Homes were also destroyed in several areas of eastern Libya.

Walid Al Arfi, the government’s emergency response team spokesman, identified the man as Othman Abu Khuwaydim Al Darsi and said he died on Sunday in the Batta area, east of the city of Al Marj.

The head of the interim government in Tripoli, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, said on Sunday he had directed all state agencies to “immediately deal” with the damage and floods in eastern cities.

The storm arrived in Egypt's western coastal province of Matrouh on Monday afternoon, causing moderate rain in some parts and very poor visibility after thick fog “blocked the sea from view”, the Egyptian Meteorological Authority said.

Thick fog also descended on the Mediterranean Sea in the coastal city of Alexandria, almost 300km from Matruh and a little more than 600km from Egypt's border with Libya, a resident of the city told The National.

Light rains also started falling periodically in Alexandria, the resident said.

The UN in Libya said it was following the storm closely and would “provide urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels”.

As a precaution, Libyan authorities shut down four major oil ports, including Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Es Sidra, for three days on Saturday evening.

Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation declared a state of maximum alert before the storm.

“You are asked to monitor the ports and shipping movement and take measures to maintain the highest levels of safety … and take measures to protect industrial units, production lines and storage units,” the NOC said in a message to its affiliated companies.

Libyans began sharing videos on social media, asking for help from the authorities and saying they were facing challenges after rainwater flooded their homes and neighbourhoods.

On Saturday, authorities in eastern Libya declared a state of emergency, which included suspending classes in all public and private educational institutions, closing shops and enforcing curfews.

Last week, Storm Daniel pummelled Greece for three days at the end of the hottest summer on record, leaving a new trail of ruin after deadly wildfires.

Greek rescue teams recovered the bodies of four more people in central areas of the country on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 15 in the country's most intense rainstorm since records began in 1930.

The Egyptian Meteorological Authority had warned citizens on Sunday that Storm Daniel would reach the country by Monday, accompanied by rains and unstable weather in western parts of the country.

The authority confirmed that areas as far south as Cairo would also be affected by the storm by Tuesday or Wednesday, albeit to a much a lesser degree than the country's western and coastal parts.

“These conditions will affect parts of western Egypt, including Salloum, Marsa Matruh and Siwa. Light to moderate rain is expected to spread to parts of Alexandria in the evening,” the agency said.

“Light to moderate rain will gradually move inland to affect parts of the southern Delta, the canal cities and possibly Cairo.”

Updated: September 12, 2023, 1:26 PM