May 20, 2024
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By Hamdi Alkhshali

After heavy rains in the northeastern part of Libya, two dams collapsed and gushed more water in areas already submerged.

Tamer Raadan, the head of the delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya, provided the missing persons’ numbers during a press conference held in Geneva on Tuesday. The death toll, she told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday was “huge”.

State media LANA said that the interior ministry in Libya’s east government believed at least 5300 people were dead. CNN was unable independently to confirm the number of dead or those who are missing.

At least 145 Egyptians were among those who died, according to officials from Tobruk city in Libya’s northeast.

Othman Abujalil is Libya’s health minister and told Almasar TV in Libya that up to 6,000 individuals are missing from the east city of Derna. On Monday, when Othman Abduljalil toured Derna, he described the situation as “catastrophic”.

According to officials, whole neighbourhoods are thought to have been swept away by the floodwaters in the city.

Osama Ali, spokesperson of the Emergency and Ambulance services, confirmed that hospitals and morgues in Derna were no longer operational and full.

CNN reports that dead bodies are left in the streets outside of morgues.

The emergency services are not available on site. The bodies are being collected by people at this moment, said Anas Borghathy a physician currently volunteering in Derna.

“We’re all terrified”

CNN reports that the relatives of residents of Derna who were flooded out of their homes and have not heard from them are terrified.

Ayah said she couldn’t reach her cousins, who live in Derna.

They are really worrying me. Two of my cousins reside in Derna. There are no communications and I have no idea if my cousins are alive. Watching the Derna videos is a very frightening experience. She said, “We’re all scared.”

Emad Milad is a Tobrok resident who said that eight members of his family died as a result of the flooding at Derna.

My wife Areej’s brother and his husband are both dead. All of his family members are also deceased. Total of eight are dead. The situation is dire. It’s a catastrophe. He said, “We pray for better things.”

“Ferocious” weather conditions

The heavy rains that have swept through several cities of Libya’s North-East are the result of an extremely strong low pressure system which caused devastating flooding in Greece the previous week.

It is a deadly storm that comes at the end of an unimaginable year filled with climate catastrophes and weather extremes. From devastating wildfires in California to oppressive heat, this has been a record-breaking year.

The Mediterranean temperature, scientists claim, is higher than average. As ocean temperatures rise around the globe due to pollution that’s causing global warming, so does the rainfall.

According to the Science Media Center, “The warm water doesn’t only increase storm intensity in terms of rain, but it makes them even more violent,” Karstenhaustein said, a German climate scientist at Leipzig University.

Libya’s long-running conflict has led to a power struggle that has lasted ten years between rival governments.

Abdulhamid Dbeibeh leads the UN-backed Government of National Unity in Tripoli. The eastern competitor is Khalifa haftar’s Libyan National Army and its support for Osama Hassan Hamad, who heads the parliament in eastern Libya.

Haftar, and his administration in the east, controls Derna. It is about 300 kilometers away from Benghazi.

Leslie Mabon is a lecturer at The Open University in Environmental Systems. She told Science Media Center about the challenges posed by complex politics.

Dams collapse

According to authorities, the failure of two dams that sent water flooding towards Derna has led to catastrophic damage.

“Three Bridges were destroyed.” Ahmed Mismari is the spokesperson for LNA.

Aly said that strong currents of mud carried debris and vehicles away from homes located in the valleys.

Aly reported to CNN that phone lines were down in Derna and this was complicating the rescue effort. Due to the destruction of the city, workers could not enter Derna.

Aly claimed that the authorities had not anticipated the extent of the tragedy.

The weather conditions, seawater and rainfall levels, wind speed, as well the evacuation of those families who could have been in the way of the storm or in valleys, were all not properly studied, he stated.

“Libya had not been prepared for an event of this magnitude. The country has never experienced a catastrophe of this magnitude. Aly said to Al Hurra that this was the first time they had faced such a catastrophe.

‘Unprecedented flooding’

It is certain that this storm will be among the most deadly in North Africa.

Hamad said that the situation in Libya was “unprecedented”, according to an article by the state-run news agency Libyan News Agency.

Mismari Mismari is the spokesperson for the LNA. He said that floods had affected many cities such as Al-Bayda Al-Marj Tobruk Takenis Al-Bayada Battah and the Eastern Coast all the way up to Benghazi. As many as 37 residential structures were washed away by the floods.

Mismari told reporters that they were not prepared to deal with such devastation.

Libyan authorities are in need of three kinds of specialist search groups, including teams that can recover dead bodies from valleys ravaged by torrential rains, teams that can recover bodies under the rubble or from the ocean, said he.

Mismari reports that despite the fact that tens thousands of soldiers have been sent to flood-hit areas, emergency personnel are still unable to reach many.

Rescue teams are scrambling to search for survivors among the rubble. Several human rights organizations and countries have offered their assistance.

International Rescue Committee said in response to the catastrophe that “the country faced an unprecedented humanitarian crises.”

Ciaran Donnelly, IRC’s Senior Vice President for Crisis Response, stated that Libya’s challenges “are enormous, with heavy destruction and phone lines down hampering the rescue efforts.” The climate change is compounding the “steadily worsening” of the situation in Libya after years and conflict and instabilities.

Turkish planes delivering humanitarian assistance have reached Libya, said the Emergency Management Authority in Turkey (AFAD) Tuesday.

Anadoulu Agency reported on Tuesday that Turkish President RecepTayyipErdogan had said his country would be sending 168 rescue and search teams, as well as humanitarian aid to Benghazi.

Italy will be sending a Civil Defense team to aid in rescue efforts, said the Civil Protection Department on Tuesday.

US Embassy Tripoli announced its ambassador Richard Norland had officially declared a need for humanitarian assistance.

It will “authorize initial funding” that the United States provides to support relief efforts. The US posted a message on X (formerly Twitter) saying that they were working with UN partners to decide how the official US aid should be targeted.

The state news agency reports that Zayed Al Nahyan the President of United Arab Emirates, offered his condolences and directed search and recovery teams to be sent to help those in need.

Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi dispatched a military delegation, headed by Egypt’s Armed Forces chief of staff Osama Ashkar. The delegation arrived in Libya Tuesday for the coordination of humanitarian and logistical assistance.

A statement by the World Meteorological Organization citing Libya’s National Meteorological Centre said that on Monday, the storm had reached its peak.

Libya’s flood follows other areas of the world that have experienced deadly flooding, such as southern Europe and Hong Kong.

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