Libya evacuates flooded city as searchers look for 10,000 missing after death toll passes 11,000
DERNA, Libya (AP) — Libyan authorities evacuated residents from an inundated city Friday and limited access to it, as searchers dug through mud and hollowed-out buildings for 10,000 people missing and feared dead in flooding that has already killed more than 11,000.
Authorities warned that disease and explosives shifted by the waters could claim yet more lives.
Two dams collapsed in exceptionally heavy rains from Mediterranean storm Daniel early Monday, sending a wall of water several meters (feet) high gushing down a valley that cuts through the city of Derna.
The unusual flooding and Libya’s political chaos contributed to the enormous toll. The oil-rich state has been split since 2014 between rival governments in the east and west backed by various militia forces and international patrons.
The disaster has brought rare unity, as government agencies across Libya’s divide rushed to help the affected areas. But relief efforts have been slowed by the destruction after several bridges that connect the city were destroyed.
Heaps of twisted metal and flooded cars littered Derna’s streets, which are caked in a tan mud. Teams have buried bodies in mass graves outside the city and in nearby towns, Eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, said.
But officials worried that thousands more were yet to be found.
Bodies “are littering the streets, washing back up on shore and buried under collapsed buildings and debris,” said Bilal Sablouh, regional forensics manager for Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“In just two hours, one of my colleagues counted over 200 bodies on the beach near Derna,” he said.
Divers are also combing the coastal waters off of the city.
The Libyan Red Crescent said as of Thursday that 11,300 people in Derna had died and another 10,100 were reported missing — though there was little hope many would be found alive. The storm also killed about 170 people elsewhere in the country.