Emergency teams are working to find survivors and recover bodies after a massive flood hit northeastern Libya three days ago, killing at least 11,000 people and leaving 10,000 missing.
Eyewitness images shared on social media showed the devastation after the floods, with collapsed roofs and cars knocked over among the rubble of destroyed infrastructure.
Satellite images showed buildings in the worst-hit city of Derna destroyed by water and sand. The shorelines of the coastal city appeared to have been severely eroded.
At least 11,300 people have died in Derna, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Saturday, revising an earlier estimate, and about 170 people had died on the outskirts of Derna. At least 10,100 people are missing in Derna alone, according to the UN report.
Local rescue teams continue to search for the missing, according to state media. More than 30,000 people have been displaced, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya said on Wednesday.
Relatives of those still missing told CNN they are terrified. Others who learned of their families’ tragic fate are devastated.
A resident of Tobruk, a city to the east, told CNN that eight of his relatives died in the floods in Derna.
“My wife Areej’s sister and her husband died. Her entire family is dead too. A total of eight people are gone,” Emad Milad told CNN. “It’s a disaster. We are praying for better things,” Milad said.
Libya has been riven by political turmoil since civil war broke out in 2014, and now has two rival governments, the government in Benghazi, backed by the eastern parliament, and the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.
Each of them has reported conflicting casualty figures following the country’s catastrophic floods. CNN cannot independently verify the number of deaths or missing.
Here’s what we know so far:
The flood hit northeastern Libya, which is located on the Mediterranean coast. The most affected city is Derna, located about 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi, the country’s second largest city. Derna, a city of approximately 100,000 inhabitants, suffered severe damage. Entire neighborhoods are believed to have been leveled, authorities say, and emergency response workers say hospitals are no longer operational.
Morgues are overcrowded and bodies have been left on sidewalks, Osama Aly, spokesman for Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance Service, told CNN on Tuesday.
The flooding was also exacerbated by the collapse of two dams, sending water into Derna, authorities said Tuesday.
Libya is particularly vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters as it does not have a unified government, but rather two rival administrations that are locked in a political standoff following a civil war that began in 2014. The country has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Today, two warring parties compete for control of the country. The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh is based in Tripoli in northwestern Libya, while its rival is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). , which supports the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.
Derna and surrounding flood-affected cities remain under the control of Haftar and his eastern government, which is not recognized by the international community.
Analysts have said weather forecasts gave warnings days before the storm hit Libya, but that eastern authorities did not act quickly enough.
The inadequate response, analysts said, also stems from Libya’s lack of preparedness to deal with natural disasters, something LNA spokesman in the east, Major General Ahmed Al-Mismari, acknowledged on Tuesday.
Libya and eastern authorities “are not equipped to handle this level of damage,” Al-Mismari told Al-Arabiya TV on Tuesday, adding that at least three different specialized rescue teams are needed.
Several countries have said they are sending humanitarian aid to Libya, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy and Algeria.
Analysts have said the politically fragmented situation in Libya only complicates rescue missions and the delivery of international aid. Countries have to decide whether to send aid to the capital or to Haftar’s rival administration in Benghazi.
So far, most countries have sent their aid to Benghazi, the nearest major city to Derna, and its surrounding towns. Algeria, however, sent its aid to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, about 1,000 miles away.
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya, told CNN on Tuesday that the issue of rival governments in Libya does not affect its operations. “We have a good relationship with officials from both governments,” he said.
How did the flood happen and what role did climate change play?
The torrential rains that have devastated Derna and other cities in northeastern Libya are the result of a very strong low pressure system, which caused catastrophic flooding in Greece last week before moving towards the Mediterranean and becoming a tropical-type cyclone. known as medicane. .
As ocean temperatures around the world soar off the charts due to planet-warming emissions, the temperature of the Mediterranean is well above average, which scientists say fueled the heavy rains of Storm.
“Although the role of climate change in the intensity of Storm Daniel has not yet been formally attributed, it is safe to say that Mediterranean Sea surface temperatures have been considerably above average throughout the summer,” Karsten said. Haustein, a climatologist and meteorologist at the University of Leipzig in Germany, told the Science Media Center.
“Warmer water not only fuels those storms in terms of rainfall intensity, but it also makes them more ferocious,” he said.