Libya: Thousands of Bodies are thrown into Mass Graves, 10,000 People have Disappeared after the Floods

World | September 13, 2023, Wednesday // 14:19
Bulgaria: Libya: Thousands of Bodies are thrown into Mass Graves, 10,000 People have Disappeared after the Floods

More than 5,000 people are dead and 10,000 people are missing after storm "Daniel" breached a dam on Sunday and a water tsunami swept through entire neighborhoods of the port city of Derna in eastern Libya. The devastation was described by Reuters, the BBC and the AP in reports today, in the third day of the search for survivors, as diggers dug up dirt in a cemetery and dumped the bodies, wrapped in body bags and blankets, one by one into mass graves before they are buried.

Many of the 10,000 missing are believed to have been swept out to sea. But the living hope to find their dead. The hospital corridors are covered with bodies, among which people wander in the hope of finding their missing relatives among them. More dead people are being brought in.

Local resident Mustafa Salem says he has lost 30 members of his family so far.

It is likely that the storm first broke the wall of a dam about 12 km from Derna, the water went down the valley and swept away a second dam, which is located closer to the city - water engineering experts told the BBC, explaining the huge scale of the disaster.

Video footage taken after nightfall on Sunday showed a river from the flood flowing through Derna, cars swaying in it. The daylight of the morning reveals destroyed neighborhoods, streets covered in mud and debris, buried and overturned cars. Stories are being told of people being swept out to sea as they tried to climb onto rooftops to survive, the BBC writes.

The flood has ravaged a quarter or more of the Mediterranean city, wiping out buildings with their inhabitants, Reuters added.

A representative of the government of eastern Libya, described what he saw as a "tsunami" to the BBC in shock.

Eastern Libya's health minister, Othman Abdul-Jalil, told AP: "We were stunned by the scale of the destruction... The tragedy is very significant and beyond the power of Derna and the government."

Satellite images of the city from before and after the disaster show that the relatively narrow waterway through the center of the city is now several times wider, and all the buildings that once lined it are gone.

Aid convoys and bulldozers headed towards Derna on Wednesday. It is not the only one affected. Susa, Al-Marj and Misrata were also not spared by the storm on Sunday.

Rescuers continue to frantically search for survivors. "We are calling on all young Libyans, anyone who has a degree or some kind of medical qualification, to come and help us," Derna volunteer Mohamed Kamati said via Reuters. "We have a shortage of nurses. We need help."

Helpers have begun to arrive, including from Egypt, but rescue efforts have been hampered by the political situation in Libya. The country is divided between two rival governments. The US, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or are ready to send aid.

But reaching it is difficult. Libya is in political chaos. Since its longtime ruler, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, was toppled and killed in 2011, the oil-rich country has effectively been split in two: an interim, internationally recognized government that operates in the capital, Tripoli, and another in the east of the country. Despite the division, the government in Tripoli sent a plane with 14 tons of medical supplies, body bags and over 80 doctors and paramedics.

Derna, a city of about 89,000 inhabitants, located about 250 km east of Benghazi along the coast, is surrounded by the nearby hills of the fertile Jabal Akhdar region. The city was once where Islamic State militants built up a presence in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi. A few years later, they were driven out by the Libyan National Army, a force loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, who is allied with the eastern administration. The influential general said eastern authorities were currently assessing the damage caused by the floods so that roads and electricity could be restored to support rescue efforts.

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Tags: Libya, floods, derna

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