About 10,000 persons have been declared missing after a massive flooding occurred in Libya. The Red Cross reported that the number of missing persons had hit 10,000 as the flood wiped out the city of Derna, where two dams collapsed over the weekend.
The Libya envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Tamer Ramadan, reported the figure at a United Nations briefing in Geneva, on Tuesday, September 12, 2023.
The flooding is reported to have been the result of a storm which caused the collapse of two dams. Water from the collapsed dams swept off multiple coastal towns.
The port city of Derna is reported to have been most impacted by the flood. Neighborhoods in the city have been washed away. More than 700 bodies have also been recovered and yet to be identified.
The health minister in charge of Libya East, Othman Abdel Jalil, said the situation has become more tragic and statistics on the number of victims keep changing.
“The number of missing people is in the thousands, and the number of dead is expected to reach 10,000,” The situation in the city of Derna is becoming more tragic, and there are no final statistics on the number of victims. Many neighbourhoods were inaccessible,” Jalil said.
The country’s minister of civil aviation, Hichem Chkiouat, described the situation as disastrous.
“Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings. I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed. The final toll would be “really, really big,” he said.
Citizens have taken to social media to ask for help concerning information about missing relatives. Many were also aggrieved at the slow pace of the relief effort. Communications in the city is impaired as the flooding led to a break in communications and cut off internet access across the city.
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Reports say engineers had previously issued a general warning about the risk of the dams collapsing and the urgent need to strengthen them. However, residents were given no immediate warning of the dams collapsing.
Video footage circulating on social media show people screaming and calling for help as water engulfed their homes. Circulating videos also showed flood washing away cars along the streets.
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A resident of the affected city, Hudhayfah al-Hasadi, described the unfortunate event and how water was released from the dam without any warning.
“The depths of some of the valleys in which water collects reach about 400 metres. Therefore, when the dam collapsed, the water was released like an atomic bomb, and eight bridges and residential buildings collapsed completely.”
A spokesperson for the Libyan Emergency Authority, Osama Ali, reported that there was no evacuation of vulnerable persons because the climate pattens had not been properly studied.
“All the water headed to an area near Derna, which is a mountainous coastal area … Houses in the valleys that were on the flood line were swept away by strong currents of muddy water that carried vehicles and debris,” he said.
“Weather conditions were not studied well, sea water levels, rainfall and wind speed, and there was no evacuation of families who could be in the path of the storm and in the valleys.”
The head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, has said an emergency medical supply plane with 14 tonnes of supplies, medication, equipment, body bags and 87 medical and paramedic personnel was heading to Benghazi to support the areas affected by the flood.