On Tuesday, rescuers found almost 1,500 dead in the rubble of Derna, a city in eastern Libya, where floodwaters had broken through dams and washed away entire communities.
Tens of thousands of people were still reported missing.
The state-run news agency cited Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesperson for the east Libyan interior ministry, as saying that more than 5,300 people had died in Derna alone on Tuesday. The Derna ambulance authority reported an initial death toll of 2,300.
The shocking death toll and widespread destruction caused by the Mediterranean storm Daniel not only demonstrated the storm’s severity but also highlighted the fragility of a country that has been in turmoil for almost a decade. Many elements of the country’s infrastructure have been neglected as a result of the warring administrations in the east and west.
More than 36 hours after the tragedy happened, aid was just beginning to arrive in Derna on Tuesday. The floods either damaged or completely destroyed several of the roads leading to the roughly 89,000-person coastal community.
The level of destruction is unimaginable
Dozens of bodies wrapped in blankets were filmed in a hospital yard. A picture of a mass grave with bodies in it also appeared.
The health minister for eastern Libya claimed that as of Tuesday evening, half of the more than 1,500 bodies that had been gathered had been buried.
However, the number of casualties is expected to be in the thousands, according to Tamer Ramadan, the ambassador for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya. Via videoconference from Tunisia, he told a U.N. meeting in Geneva that at least 10,000 people were still missing. More than 40,000 people, he added later Tuesday, had been forced to relocate.
Global response but not enough
Multiple nations urgently offered to send aid and rescue teams to help the war-scarred country that has been overwhelmed by what one UN official labeled “a calamity of epic proportions”. The global concern spread, prompting these nations to take action.
The raging waters in Derna, a Mediterranean coastal city of about 100,000 people, caused massive destruction. Multi-storey buildings on the river banks collapsed, and the raging waters made houses and cars vanish.
The internationally recognised government’s emergency services reported an initial death toll of more than 2,300 in Derna alone. They also stated that over 5,000 people remained missing, while about 7,000 were injured.
But the rival government officials in eastern Libya claimed that the floods in Derna caused the deaths of “thousands” more people, and they fear that the death toll might exceed 10,000.
Storm Daniel caused the floods by bringing torrential rains, making landfall in Libya on Sunday after previously lashing Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
The hills ring Derna, located 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Benghazi, while a normally dry riverbed bisects the city. However, the riverbed has transformed into a powerful torrent of mud-brown water, washing away several significant bridges.
Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated, “The death toll is significant and could potentially reach thousands. Additionally, 10,000 people are missing.”