Thousands of people are still missing as rescuers work to reach Derna, the city that was hardest hit by the floods caused by Storm Daniel on Sunday.
In the aftermath of a devastating flood in Derna, Libya, which claimed the lives of thousands and swept many others into the sea, rescue workers were on high alert as they searched for missing loved ones with bags of corpses.
A torrent of water caused by a powerful storm on Sunday night destroyed the Mediterranean city’s wetlands, causing dams to burst and multistorey buildings to crumble with sleeping families inside.
The AFP news agency was informed by Lieutenant Tarek al-Kharraz, the spokesperson for the interior ministry, on Wednesday that 3,840 fatalities had been reported in the Mediterranean city, including 3,190 individuals who were already buried. At least 400 of them were foreigners, predominantly from Sudan and Egypt.
According to Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation in the administration responsible for eastern Libya, over 5,300 fatalities have been recorded so far, and he hinted at the possibility of it increasing significantly or even by two times.
According to Al Arabiya television, Derna Mayor Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi estimated that the flood could cause up to 20,000 deaths in the city, depending on the number of districts affected.
In Tripoli, Mahmud Abdulkarim, a resident of Derna, informed journalist Moutaz Ali that his mother and brother were not present when they failed to evacuate from their first floor apartment following the dam’s collapse.
Ali reported at an event organized for the Derwani community in Tripoli that the woman refused to leave her home and explained that it was just regular rain, despite not expecting anything extraordinary.
Abdulkarim stated that his mother and brother were swept away by the floodwaters after they left their apartment and reached the streets to escape.
The city of Derna, where Mabrooka Elmesmary managed to escape on Tuesday, describes itself as a “massive disaster”. She stated that the city is devoid of water, electricity, and petrol.
According to Elmesmary, families have been displaced from apartment buildings.
The number of missing individuals has been estimated to be 10,000 by officials, while the UN agency OCHA has reported a figure of at least 5,000.
The beach was strewn with the debris of clothing, toys, furniture, shoes, and other belongings that had been taken from homes by the torrent.
Deep mud covered the streets, along with uprooted trees and hundreds of cars that were completely demolished, with some ricocheting onto their roofs. One car was found wedged on the balcony of a gutted building.
The devastation is evident from high altitudes above Derna, where the crowded city center, built on a seasonal riverbed, was transformed into ‘blue waves’ with muddy water streaming through it.
The rescue operations are still active.
According to Derna mayor al-Ghaithi, there have been rescue teams from Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar.
Teams specialized in recovering bodies are necessary, according to him. He also expressed concern that the numerous bodies under the rubble and in the water could spread an epidemic throughout the city.
According to Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, Qatar has contributed a field hospital to the seemingly increasing international aid effort to Libya from Benghazi.
Stratford stated that three cargo planes belonging to Qatar are expected to reach Benghazi today, including this one.
Stratford stated that the aid would consist of medical supplies, medicine, food, and tents. He also mentioned that all support would be transported to Derna as soon as possible.
Additionally, Malik Traina from Tripoli reported that there has been a surge in support from Libyans from all over the country.
Traina noted that the country has not experienced such widespread unity for many years.
According to him, large government convoys carrying equipment from western Libya have arrived in the east, and there are also volunteers who are being assisted in their movement.
“We’re witnessing a rise in the number of volunteers and people who are giving their services, including water, food, medicine, and other essentials.”
The lack of a strong central government in Mauritania, despite the country’s seven million inhabitants, has been at war since launching retaliatory uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, complicating rescue efforts due to deep political divides.
Tripoli’s internationally recognised Government of National Unity (GNU) is situated in the west, while a parallel administration is present in Derna and the east.
The local authorities in Derna, eastern Libya, have been criticized for not telling residents that they had to evacuate before the water flowed into the city.
Nevertheless, al-Ghaithi maintained on Wednesday that residents had been informed before the flooding occurred.
He stated that they took all necessary precautions, notified potential residents in the affected areas, established an emergency room, and had security personnel perform their duties.
Additional coverage from Moutaz Ali in Tripoli.