Libya floods: More than 1,000 bodies recovered in Derna as hundreds remain trapped

More than 2,000 are feared dead in and around the city, where at least four bridges, two buildings and two dams have collapsed

Libya videos shows extensive damage following Storm Daniel

Libya videos shows extensive damage following Storm Daniel
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More than 1,000 bodies have been recovered in Libya's eastern city of Derna after it was hit by devastating floods caused by Storm Daniel, a government minister confirmed on Tuesday.

“I returned from Derna. It is very disastrous. Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings,” Hichem Chkiouat, civil aviation minister and a member of the emergency committee, told Reuters.

“The number of bodies recovered in Derna is more 1,000,” he said. He expected the final toll would be “really, really big”.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that 25 per cent of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed,” he said.

Libyan authorities continue to battle to rescue hundreds of people trapped in their homes.

On Monday, the eastern government's Prime Minister Ossama Hamad said more than 2,000 were feared dead in Derna and nearby cities, as the country's eastern government tackles the aftermath of the storm, which hit an area struggling after years of conflict.

At least four main bridges linking Derna, two buildings and two dams have collapsed in the city of 100,000 people that lies in a valley 900km east of the capital, Tripoli.

“We are estimating that more than 2,800 people may be dead by the time we reach them. Cities like Derna, Al Bayda and Al Marj simply did not stand a chance,” a medical source told The National on Tuesday.

“The death toll being announced overnight is conflicting because the resources to reach the victims right now are simply lacking.”

The devastation of Storm Daniel puts the Libyan conflict into focus, as most eastern cities have suffered heavy damage.

Poor infrastructure made the situation worse on Tuesday as authorities attempted to find a way to rescue those still trapped.

'Taking responsibility'

The head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority, Osama Aly, admitted there were “shortcomings” before the flash floods in Derna.

“Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like that. It has not witnessed that level of catastrophe before. We are admitting there were shortcomings even though this is the first time we face that level of catastrophe,” Mr Aly told Al Hurra news channel.

Speaking to Sky News Arabia from Egypt, Libyan House of Representatives spokesman Abdullah Bliheg said authorities had started preparations days before the storm made landfall but that their calculations had been way off.

“We started to put in place what we thought were the necessary precautions and plans before the storm but what we anticipated was so much lesser than the catastrophe that struck,” Mr Bliheg said.

“We also must admit that we do not have the technical capabilities nor the disaster and emergency experts in dealing with a disaster of this magnitude. It simply does not exist in our country.”

Speaking on Libyan network Almasar, Oussama Hamad, leader of Libya's eastern government, reported “more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing” in Derna alone.

However, no medical sources or emergency services have confirmed such figures yet.

Hundreds of residents are believed to be trapped in areas that are difficult to reach, with army-backed rescuers trying to come to their aid.

Libya's eastern authorities also confirmed that they had lost contact with at least nine soldiers during rescue operations as of Tuesday morning.

An emergency medical supply plane carrying 14 tonnes of supplies, medication, equipment, body bags and 87 medical and paramedic personnel is heading to Benghazi to support areas affected by the flood, the head of the Tripoli-based government led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah confirmed on Tuesday.

He also announced three days of national mourning and emphasised “the unity of all Libyans” in the face of the disaster.

The National Petroleum Company, which has its main oilfields and terminals in eastern Libya, declared “a state of maximum alert” and suspended flights between production sites where activity was drastically reduced.

A Derna city council official described the situation in the city as “catastrophic” and in need of “national and international intervention”, speaking to local TV channel Libya Al Ahrar.

In October 2014, Derna was taken over by ISIS before the extremist group was removed by the Derna Shura Council of Mujahedeen, a coalition of militias, in June 2015.

In 2018, the Libyan National Army liberated Derna, the final militant stronghold outside of its control in the eastern part of the country at the time.

Updated: September 12, 2023, 1:52 PM