James Rothwell

Country’s western government is to send an aid plane with 14 tons of supplies and medications to Benghazi, an eastern city.

Up to 10,000 people are missing and feared dead in Libya after a massive flood tore through the east of the country, as officials said nearly a quarter of one port city had “disappeared”.

Storm Daniel was unleashed on eastern Libya over the weekend, bursting several dams in poor condition near the port city of Derma which in turn sent a tidal wave towards towns and villages.

As of Tuesday evening, officials put the death toll at 2,300 people but warned it could climb considerably higher.

Video footage from the area showed dozens of bodies lying under blankets in Derna, as well as mass devastation to towns and villages with many collapsed buildings.

The floods have caused devastating damage in the city of Derna

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

“The number of bodies recovered in Derna is more [than] 1,000,” he said, adding that he feared the final death 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. Up to 10,000 people are missing, having apparently been swept away in the floods.

Since a 2011 uprising that removed from power Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, the country has lacked a central government and the resulting lawlessness has meant dwindling investment in the country’s roads and public services as well as minimal regulation of private building.

Libya is politically divided by the internationally recognised government in Tripoli in the west and a self-proclaimed government in the east.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya analyst and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said some reports suggested a request by the mayor of Derna to evacuate the city had been rejected by the warlord in control of the east.

Reports suggest that the mayor of Derna asked Haftar’s Army for permission to evacuate the city when the storm hit, but he was denied, with the army telling people instead to stay at home,” he said.

Libya’s western government announced on Tuesday it was sending an aid plane with 14 tons of supplies and medications to Benghazi, an eastern city.

“The death toll is huge and might reach thousands,” Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Tuesday. “We confirm from our independent sources of information that the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far.”

Georgette Gagnon, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, said dozens of towns and villages had been “severely affected … with widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life”.

“I am deeply saddened by the severe impact of [Storm] Daniel on the country … I call on all local, national, and international partners to join hands to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people in eastern Libya,” she said in a tweet.

Foreign governments have begun pledging support, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, vowing to provide search and rescue teams and other assistance.

“Many dead and injured are expected, especially in the east. Our thoughts are with all those affected and their families,” said Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, in a statement.


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