Egyptian workers are seen in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya September 14, 2023. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
Egyptian workers are seen in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya September 14, 2023. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

20,000 Feared Dead in Libyan Storm

Aid workers struggle to reach devastated port city of Derna as death toll from Storm Daniel rises.


International aid is slowly starting to reach the devastated port city of Derna as an inquest starts into how as many as 20,000 people might have perished when Storm Daniel hit the northern coast of Libya on Saturday night.

Ten thousand people had been declared missing by official aid agencies such as the Libyan Red Crescent, but the new, ominous higher estimate of 20,000 deaths came from the director of Al-Bayda Medical Center, Abdul Rahim Maziq.

Corpses still litter the street, and drinkable water is in short supply. Whole families have been wiped out by the storm and with the remoteness of some villages and the rudimentary nature of municipal government, it will take time for the death toll to be confirmed.

But the scale of devastation appeared even worse than officials had initially predicted. The “sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies”, said Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation in the administration that runs eastern Libya, adding that reconstruction would cost billions of dollars.

Members of Libyan Red Crescent work in an area affected by flooding in Derna. Photograph: Libyan Red Crescent Ajdabiya/Reuters

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya said on Wednesday that at least 30,000 individuals were displaced in Derna, the town most affected by storm Daniel. IOM added that 6,085 were known to have been displaced in other storm-hit areas including Benghazi, with the number of deaths still unverified.

Such was the need to bury the bodies to avoid the spread of disease that hundreds were being buried collectively in one grave. Derna residents have also been pleading for a new field hospital as the two existing hospitals in the town have become makeshift morgues.

Sea patrols were working along the coast trying to locate washed-up bodies, many of which were being taken to Tobruk for potential identification.

Libya flooding: before and after satellite images reveal scale of disaster in DernaRead more

Food and drinking water were in short supply and authorities were struggling to fully reinstate the internet. A technical committee for assessing the damages, formed by the roads and bridges authority, announced that the extent of the collapsed road network in Derna was estimated at 30km (20 miles). The area devastated by the floods covered 90 hectares (220 acres) and five bridges had been wiped out.

Aid agencies have been battling to reach the town of just over 100,000 people. Hampered by the destruction of roads, helicopters were required, mainly provided by Egypt.

Aid is arriving from countries historically linked to Libya including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, where three days of mourning were declared. Help in the form of trucks and doctors is being sent from the west. .

The country has been politically divided for years. But the impression remains that the international emergency aid operation has been slow to spring into action with attention focused on the earthquake in Morocco, and experts taking time to realise the scale of the disaster.

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