Catastrophic Floods Engulf Libyan City, Families Perish with Mere Moments of Warning

by Chloe Baker
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Libyan Flood Disaster

The towering deluge swiftly overran residential structures, causing families to drown within minutes.

Fadellalah, a resident, suspects that 13 people from his extended family have perished in the disaster. Several days have elapsed since the double dam failure above the coastal Libyan city of Derna set off monumental floods that eradicated entire communities and swept some victims out to sea.

Many individuals, similar to Fadellalah, are engaged in a frantic search for surviving family members after the devastating flood event.

Prior to the cataclysm, Fadellalah, employed in the IT sector in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, reached out to his family last Sunday, urging them to relocate to safer, elevated areas.

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Fadellalah, who requested anonymity due to concerns over reprisals from governmental bodies or armed factions, stated, “The situation was completely unforeseen. Some family members lacked the means of transportation to evacuate.”

The torrential downpour that cascaded from steep mountain slopes into the city resulted in thousands of fatalities. Survivors describe horrific scenes, with corpses accumulating at a pace that overwhelms official record-keeping.

The deadly floods were instigated by Mediterranean storm Daniel, which caused significant destruction across eastern Libyan towns. Derna was the hardest-hit city, characterized by its picturesque white villas and palm trees. Alarmingly, there were no evacuation protocols in place, and the only alert came from the cacophonous rupture of the dams.

For many, geographical location proved a determinant between survival and fatality. Fadelallah disclosed that the 13 deceased family members resided near the river valley. The Red Crescent recovered and interred their bodies, adding their names to a roster of confirmed fatalities.

Mohammed Derna, a 34-year-old teacher and father, spoke of scrambling to higher floors with his family and neighbors as they observed people being swept away by the deluge. He described the ordeal as resembling a horrifying cinematic experience.

Emad al-Falah, a humanitarian worker arriving from Benghazi, reported that rescue efforts are ongoing, with teams recovering bodies from residential areas and even those washed back ashore. “It’s an absolute catastrophe. Death is omnipresent—in homes, on streets, and at sea,” he said.

This disaster has highlighted Libya’s endemic vulnerabilities. Engulfed in internal strife since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the oil-rich nation remains fractured, led by competing governments and militias. Despite joint efforts to aid the affected, progress is sluggish, with essential infrastructure obliterated.

As of Wednesday, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration estimates at least 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna alone, with many relocating to less-affected neighboring cities.

Among the displaced is Ahlam Yassin, a 30-year-old housewife who relocated to Tobruk, stating despondently, “Everything is lost. The city itself has ceased to exist.”

Mahmoud al-Baseer, who resides in the United Kingdom, initially feared for his cousins living in proximity to one of the dams. They managed to survive by ascending to upper floors of their building. Watching the disaster unfold from a distance, he said, “I could not bear to continue viewing the footage on social media.”

Fadelallah indicated that his parents have reached Benghazi, hopeful of reuniting with other family members from Derna. He anticipates returning soon to conduct proper Islamic funerals for his deceased relatives.

Reporting contributed from London by Jeffery and from Cairo by Big Big News journalist Samy Magdy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Catastrophic floods in Derna

What caused the catastrophic flooding in Derna, Libya?

The devastating flooding was triggered by the failure of two dams above the coastal city of Derna, exacerbated by a powerful storm named Daniel that swept across eastern Libya.

How many people are estimated to have died in the floods?

As of the latest reports, at least 5,100 people are confirmed to have died in the floods, although this number is expected to rise as rescue and recovery operations continue.

Were there any evacuation plans in place for the city of Derna?

No, there were no formal evacuation plans in place for Derna. The only warning residents received was the explosive sound of the dams rupturing.

Who are the organizations involved in rescue and recovery operations?

The Red Crescent is actively involved in retrieving and interring bodies. Additionally, various local and international rescue teams are participating in search and rescue missions.

What is the current state of infrastructure in Derna?

Essential infrastructure, including key bridges and roads, has been severely damaged or destroyed. The city has been largely cut off from the rest of the world until the arrival of the first aid convoys.

How many people have been displaced due to the floods?

According to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration, at least 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna alone, many of whom have moved to less-affected neighboring cities and towns.

What has been the response of the Libyan governments?

Both rival Libyan administrations, along with their international supporters, have combined efforts to provide aid. However, progress has been slow due to the fractured governance and destroyed infrastructure.

What are the long-term implications of this disaster for Libya?

The disaster has highlighted Libya’s vulnerability to natural catastrophes and the need for better disaster preparedness and response capabilities. It also underscores the nation’s ongoing governance issues.

What is being done to locate missing persons?

Individuals and families are engaged in a frantic search for missing loved ones, with the support of local and international rescue teams who are combing through ruined buildings and even searching at sea.

Are there any international organizations involved in the relief efforts?

The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration is involved, and it is likely that other international humanitarian organizations will also participate in ongoing relief and recovery operations.

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