Libya floods: UAE victim identification unit arrives in Derna

The 26-strong team of Emiratis arrived to start the process of identifying the victims using DNA

The 26-member team from the UAE's disaster victim identification unit arrives in Derna, the first team of its kind to arrive. Photo: Abu Dhabi Police
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The UAE’s humanitarian delegation has sent a dedicated disaster victim identification team to help identify the bodies of flood victims in Derna, Libya.

The DVI unit sent a 26-strong team of Emiratis on Thursday with equipment and expertise to start the process of identifying the victims recovered from rubble or retrieved from flood waters.

The disaster last week was caused by the collapse of two dams during a storm on the night of September 10, unleashing a deadly torrent.

“We’re part of the first unit of our kind to arrive in Derna as part of the UAE and its leadership’s efforts to help our Libyan brothers following this disaster,” Isa Al Awadhi, the head of the UAE DVI unit, told The National in Derna.

“We have sent a dedicated team made up of DNA, forensic anthropology, dental and crime scene forensic experts to Derna. We met with Libyan officials today with the ministers of health and interior and presented our plans on how to proceed in the coming days.”

The floods inundated as much as a quarter of the city, officials said. Thousands of people were killed, with many dead still under the rubble or at sea, according to search teams. Government officials and aid agencies have given death tolls ranging from about 4,000 to more than 11,000.

At least 40,000 people in the area were displaced, including 30,000 in Derna, according to the UN’s migration agency. Many people have moved to other cities in Libya, hosted by local communities or sheltered in schools.

Mr Al Awadhi said the DVI team will also meet with Libyan survivors from Derna who still have relatives missing. He said the team would also collect DNA information from the survivors to match with the DNA of those who did not survive.

“The goal is to help our Libyan brothers with seeking closure [after] this tragedy so that if we can match and identify the bodies that have been recovered, they can then be given the dignified burial they deserve,” Mr Al Awadhi said.

Within hours of the storm, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed directed that urgent relief aid and search-and-rescue teams be sent to Libya.

Since launching a humanitarian airlift to assist the country's recovery, the UAE has sent 22 shipments totalling 503 tonnes of food supplies, shelter materials, medical parcels and other first-aid items for distribution in the most affected areas, mostly in eastern Libya.

Shelter, food, health supplies and other crucial items were sent to areas that experienced the worst devastation as part of a relief programme launched by the Emirates Red Crescent to help those affected.

Updated: September 22, 2023, 5:24 AM