Yesterday, rescuers and volunteers searched through the mud and rubble for thousands of missing people in Derna, a coastal city in eastern Libya that was devastated by a flood that swept through the city like a tsunami and left at least 3,800 dead.
The waterspout that fell between Sunday night and Monday morning burst two dams and caused a dazzling flood comparable to a tsunami of several meters that destroyed buildings, vehicles and dragged away people in its path.
Several countries and international organizations offered to mobilize to confront what a UN official described as a “calamity of epic proportions,” which also hits a country ravaged by years of conflict, where there are two rival governments.
“There is still hope of finding people alive,” said Tamer Ramadan, director of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya.
Ramadan avoided giving a death toll as “it would be neither definitive nor precise,” he told reporters at a news conference in Geneva.
The head of the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Martin Griffiths, warned that “the extent” of the tragedy is not known and that “the level of needs, the number of deaths is still unknown.”
The Ministry of the Interior of the authority that controls eastern Libya – which is not the government recognized by the UN – reported on Wednesday a death toll of 3,800.
But the balance sheets differ in this oil country that has not yet recovered from the war and chaos that followed the uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, which ended with an internationally recognized authority in the capital Tripoli and another rival government in the east. .
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that “more than 38,640” people were displaced in the most affected areas of northeastern Libya, including 30,000 in Derna alone.
“Dragged by the water.” According to an AFP photographer, the center of Derna looks like a piece of land flattened by a steamroller. Trees were uprooted, and buildings and bridges were washed away.
The inhabitants of this city (around 100 thousand) reported that there are hundreds of bodies under the tons of mud and debris carried by the waters.
“The water was loaded with mud, trees, pieces of iron. The flood traveled for kilometers before occupying the center of the city and washing away or raiding everything in its path,” said Abdelaziz Busmya, a 29-year-old man who lived in a neighborhood that was not affected by the flood.
“I lost friends and close people. They are buried under the mud, or they were dragged by the water until they reached the sea,” he said.
According to him, the Libyan authorities did not take the necessary preventive measures and were content with ordering people to stay at home before the arrival of Storm Daniel, which wreaked havoc as it passed through Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece.
DNA samples. Since Sunday, dozens of bodies have been found every day, sometimes buried in mass graves. Others are still trapped in houses or were swept out to sea and then returned by the waves, say health authorities, who fear possible Pandemics linked to the decomposition of corpses.
The authorities face the dilemma of whether to preserve the bodies found to be able to identify them or bury them quickly to prevent their decomposition, since the capacity of the morgues is very limited and there are fears of Pandemics.
“We are trying to take DNA samples and photos of the victims before burying them to help with their identification later,” Lieutenant Tarek al Kharraz, spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the unrecognized government in the east of the country, told local television.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed 6,000 funeral bags in the city.
And the UN Humanitarian Coordination Office launched an urgent appeal to raise more than 71 million dollars to help the 250,000 people with the greatest needs of the 884,000 they estimate to be affected.