At least 2,000 people have died, and 10,000 are missing after Storm Daniel dumped devastating rain on Libya’s northeast, reportedly bursting two major dams and overflooding the already heavily inundated areas of the country.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) delegation in Libya, stated that “the death toll is huge and around 10,000 are reported missing.”
Othman Abduljalil, the health minister in Libya’s eastern parliament-backed government, reported that as many as 6,000 people are missing in the city of Derna alone, describing parts of it as a “ghost town.”
The floods have overwhelmed several cities in the country’s northeast, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Derna, which has been hit particularly hard.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation and a member of the emergency committee in the eastern region, painted a grim picture, stating, “The situation was catastrophic… The bodies are still lying in many places. There are families still stuck inside their homes, and there are victims under the rubble.”
The floods have been attributed to a powerful low-pressure system that developed into a tropical-like cyclone, referred to as a “medicane,” after causing catastrophic flooding in Greece. This extreme weather system, similar to tropical storms and hurricanes, has wreaked havoc in Libya, a nation already grappling with political divisions and the aftermath of a decade-long conflict.
The scale of the disaster has prompted concerns that aid efforts may be hampered by Libya’s political fractures. The country has been divided between rival administrations since 2014, and the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) in the capital, Tripoli, is in opposition to the eastern-based government led by commander Khalifa Haftar.
The floods have affected multiple cities, leading to the destruction of bridges and entire neighbourhoods. Rescue and relief efforts have been complicated by the heavy destruction, lack of phone lines, and inadequate preparedness for such a catastrophe.
Osama Aly, head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority, admitted that “Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like that. It has not witnessed that level of catastrophe before.”
Several countries, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, have offered aid and assistance to Libya in the wake of this devastating natural disaster. The United States and the United Nations are also coordinating efforts to provide support and relief to those affected by the floods.