LIBYA: The city of Derna in eastern Libya is grappling with a heart-wrenching disaster as it lays its flood victims to rest in mass graves.
Tragically, at least 2,300 lives were lost in this catastrophe, a direct consequence of a dam breach during Storm Daniel, which inundated the city on Sunday.
In a poignant scene at a cemetery, heavy machinery was employed to inter the deceased, each shrouded in body bags and blankets, side by side.
With approximately 10,000 individuals still reported as missing, the death toll is expected to rise significantly.
Aid shipments, including support from Egypt, have commenced their journey to the affected areas. However, the challenging rescue operations are further complicated by Libya’s divided political landscape, with two rival governments in place.
Numerous countries, including the US, Iran, Germany, Qatar, Italy, and Turkey, have either pledged their readiness to provide aid or have already dispatched assistance.
Water engineering experts have indicated that the initial dam failure occurred approximately 12 kilometers (eight miles) from Derna, triggering the surge of floodwaters down a valley, ultimately leading to the breach of a second dam closer to the city.
Video footage captured during the Sunday night deluge reveals a powerful torrent of water coursing through Derna, a city with a population of around 100,000. Amid this chaos, helpless cars were seen drifting in the swift currents.
As daylight broke, the extent of the devastation became painfully clear, with neighborhoods reduced to rubble, streets submerged in mud and debris, and overturned vehicles strewn about.
Heart-wrenching stories emerged of individuals swept out to sea, while others clung desperately to rooftops in a battle for survival.
Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister for Eastern Libya, expressed his shock, saying, “We were stunned by the amount of destruction… The tragedy is very significant and beyond the capacity of Derna and the government.”
Sunday’s storm also affected the cities of Soussa, Al-Marj, and Misrata.
Since the overthrow and demise of longtime ruler Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been mired in political turmoil, leading to a divided nation. An interim government, internationally recognized, operates from the capital, Tripoli, while another administration governs the eastern part of the country.
Despite this division, the Tripoli government has dispatched a plane carrying 14 tonnes of vital medical supplies, body bags, and over 80 doctors and paramedics.
Derna, located approximately 250 kilometers east of Benghazi along the coastline, is surrounded by the hills of the fertile Jabal Akhdar region.
In the past, Derna served as a stronghold for militants affiliated with the Islamic State group following Gaddafi’s regime downfall. They were eventually ousted by the Libyan National Army, aligned with General Khalifa Haftar and the eastern administration.
General Haftar affirmed that officials in the eastern region are currently assessing the flood damage to initiate road reconstruction and restore electricity, crucial steps to aid ongoing rescue efforts.