April 15, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Libya floods: The city of Derna looks as if it was hit by a tsunami – Minister

Libya floods: The city of Derna looks as if it was hit by a tsunami – Minister

Video explanation,

Watch: Floods sweep the Libyan city of Derna

A minister who visited the eastern port of Derna told the BBC that the death toll from floods in one city in Libya alone reached more than 1,500 people.

“I was shocked by what I saw, it’s like a tsunami,” said Hisham Shekiwat of the government based in the country’s east.

A large part of the city of Derna, inhabited by about 100,000 people, sank under water after two dams and four bridges collapsed.

The Red Crescent says that up to 10,000 people have been reported missing after floods caused by Storm Daniel.

The cities of Benghazi, Sousse, and Al-Marj in the east of the country were also affected by the storm that struck on Sunday.

Shekiwat, Minister of Aviation and member of the Emergency Response Committee of the eastern government, told BBC News that the collapse of a dam south of Derna led to large parts of the city sinking into the sea.

“A huge neighborhood has been destroyed, and there is a huge number of casualties, a number that is increasing every hour.

He added, “Currently, 1,500 people are dead and more than 2,000 are missing. We do not have accurate numbers, but it is a disaster,” adding that “the dam that collapsed has not been maintained for some time.”

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It is estimated that 25% of the city of Derna has been wiped out

Before the storm, authorities in Derna imposed an all-night curfew on Sunday and ordered people not to leave their homes as part of precautionary measures.

Water engineering experts told the BBC that it was likely that the upper dam, located about 12 kilometers (eight miles) from the city, collapsed first, as its waters drifted down the river valley towards the second dam, which is estimated to be located about One kilometer from the city. The low-lying part of Derna, where neighborhoods were flooded.

Raja Sassi, who survived with his wife and young daughter, told Reuters news agency: “At first we thought it was heavy rain but in the middle of the night we heard a huge explosion and the dam was bursting.”

Libyan journalist Noura Al-Jarbi, who lives in Tunisia, told the BBC that she only discovered that about 35 of her relatives, who all live in the same residential building in Derna, were still alive after contacting the local rescue team.

“They checked the house, but my family was able to get out before things got worse. They are safe now,” she says, though she is still waiting to speak to them directly.

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The low-lying areas in Derna, close to the sea, were the most affected

Shekiwat had previously told Reuters that a quarter of the city had disappeared.

Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya, told reporters that the death toll was likely to be “huge.”

“Our teams are still on the ground conducting assessments,” he said via video link from neighboring Tunisia. “We don’t have a specific number at the moment. The number of missing people is up to 10,000 people so far.”

Image source, Getty Images

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Entire neighborhoods in Derna were swept away by water

BBC Meteorology says that the city of Al-Bayda, which is about 165 kilometers west of Derna, recorded 414 mm of rain within 24 hours during Storm Daniel. According to climate-data.org, September is typically a dry month in northeastern Libya, and recent heavy rains account for 77% of the average annual total in Al Bayda.

In addition to areas in the east, the city of Misrata in the west of the country was among the areas affected by the floods.

Libya has been in political chaos since the overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, effectively splitting the oil-rich country between an internationally recognized interim government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another in the east.

According to Libyan journalist Abdul Qader Asaad, this hampers rescue efforts because the various authorities are unable to respond quickly to a natural disaster.

“There are no rescue teams, no trained rescue workers in Libya,” he told the BBC. “Everything over the past 12 years has been about war.”

“There are two governments in Libya… and that actually slows down the help coming into Libya because it’s a bit confusing. There are people who pledge to help but the help doesn’t come.”

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It is hoped that aid will arrive soon to assist in rescue efforts

Mr. Shekiwat said aid was on its way and that the eastern administration would accept help from the Tripoli government, which sent a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies, body bags and more than 80 doctors and paramedics.

The US special envoy to Libya, Richard Norton, said that Washington will send aid to eastern Libya in coordination with UN partners and the Libyan authorities.

Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey were among the countries that said they had sent aid or were prepared to send it.

Derna is located about 250 kilometers east of Benghazi along the coast, surrounded by nearby hills in the fertile Jebel Akhdar region.

The city was once the place where ISIS militants built a presence in Libya, after the fall of Gaddafi. They were expelled a few years later by the Libyan National Army, forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and allied with the eastern administration.

The powerful general said officials in the east of the country are currently assessing damage from the floods so roads can be rebuilt and electricity restored to aid in rescue efforts.

Reuters quoted him as saying in a television speech: “All official bodies, especially the Central Bank of Libya, must provide the necessary urgent financial support so that those responsible for implementation can do their work and move forward with reconstruction.”

Libya’s leading news website Al-Wasat noted that the failure to properly rebuild and maintain infrastructure in Derna after years of conflict is partly to blame for the high death toll.

“Security chaos and laxity of the Libyan authorities in implementing careful monitoring of safety procedures [of the dams] The agency quoted economic expert Mohamed Ahmed as saying: “This led to disaster.”

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