Thousands feared dead after massive floods ravage Libya

Health authorities say they have so far buried 700 people in the city.
Sejal Sharma
The devastation in Libya from Storm Daniel
The devastation in Libya from Storm Daniel

Getty Images 

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in North Africa. At least 2,000 people are feared dead in eastern Libya after a major storm struck the country this weekend. Heavy torrential rains brought on by Storm Daniel inundated major cities and broke two dams, which flooded the areas already overrun with deluge of water, reported CNN.

The flood was so powerful that it tore through the foundations of buildings, taking with it entire neighborhoods. “These two dams exploded. As far as urban planning, people were building homes along the river. We have been through mass chaos for 50 years so that’s the problem,” said Mahmoud Iftessi from the Libyan Economic and Social Board.

Over 2,000 feared dead

Health authorities say they have so far buried 700 people in the city. Thousands and thousands of people have been displaced as the floods wiped out the city of Derna and multiple other coastal towns. Urgent rescue operations are underway, but emergency response has been hampered by the political instability in the country.

The same Storm Daniel wreaked havoc across Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria last week before hitting Libya. Then, the storm moved South and strengthened into a low-pressure and tropical-like system ahead of making landfall in Libya’s Benghazi. 

This kind of system is known as a "Medicane" — a combination of the words "Mediterranean" and "hurricane," explained ABC News. Although they are like a hurricane, Medicanes are weaker in intensity and form when a storm feeds off the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

But experts are describing this event as "extreme in terms of the amount of water falling in a space of 24 hours.” It resulted in flood water levels reaching as high as three meters in some areas, reported ABC News.

Political turmoil in Libya

The governance in Libya is split by two rival administrations — one in the east and the other in the west. Each administration is backed by its own military and aided by foreign nations. Political turmoil hit the country in 2011 when an uprising removed and later killed its long-time ruler, Moammar Gadhafi. 

Two dwindling governments have resulted in lawlessness and a lack of proper infrastructure. This, in turn, in the longer run, has meant that there is minimal regulation of private buildings.

The western part is recognized by the United Nations and is controlled by National Unity (GNU), led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh. The eastern side is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), who support the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.

Hamad said that Derna has been declared a disaster zone, reported the Associated Press. Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 people are missing in Derna alone. Aid is beginning to flow from many countries, including Turkey and Qatar.

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