Heavy rainfall in Northeastern Libya has led to the collapse of two dams, intensifying the existing flooding in the region. As conveyed by state broadcaster LANA, the interior ministry of Libya’s eastern government has sadly reported a death toll of 5,300 people, and the concerns were raised that this number could increase as approximately 10,000 individuals remain missing.
On Sunday night, destruction hit Derna and several other areas in eastern Libya. During the storm that destroyed the coastline, residents heard significant explosions, indicating the failure of dams located beyond the city. This resulted in flash floods rushing down the Wadi Derna, a river that originates in the mountains, runs through the city and empties into the sea.
According to Osama Aly, a spokesperson for the Emergency and Ambulance Service, the hospitals in Derna are currently non-operational and mortuaries are overwhelmed. She told CNN that due to the high number of casualties, deceased people had to be temporarily placed on pavements outside the mortuaries. Authorities suspected that entire neighborhoods may have been swept away by the floods and extensive damage or destruction of access roads leading to the city has been reported.
The health minister of Libya’s eastern administration, Othman Abduljalil has indicated that in the heavily impacted eastern city of Derna, the total count of missing individuals might reach up to 6,000. An assessment was made in the city on Monday, he described this situation as “catastrophic.”
Videos circulating on social media portraying scenes of submerged cars, collapsed structures and torrents of water overflowing the streets. Derna, in particular, has become “completely isolated” from the outside world following the breach of two aging dams. The continuous rainfall is a result of the remnants of a low-pressure system, officially named Storm Daniel by meteorological organizations in southeastern Europe, as reported by CNN. Assistance took almost 3 days to reach Derna after the disaster.
On September 12, airplanes arrived in Benghazi carrying aid and rescue teams from Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, Germany, France, and Italy are set to send rescue personnel and aid. Libya’s National Meteorological Centre had issued early warnings regarding Storm Daniel, categorizing it as an “extreme weather event,” 3 days prior it struck. During the event, Bayda recorded an unprecedented 414.1 millimeters of rainfall from Sunday to Monday. Climate scientist Karsten Haustein suggested that in a short period, Storm Daniel released an astonishing 440 millimeters of rain on eastern Libya, potentially overwhelming the region’s infrastructure. The lack of maintenance and neglect of Derna’s infrastructure over the years worsened the impact of this disaster.
Last week, Storm Daniel caused an extensive flooding in Greece before moving into the Mediterranean and transforming into a tropical-like cyclone, referred to as a “medicane.”