Thousands Laid to Rest in Mass Graves in Derna Following Catastrophic Flood, Mayor Predicts Significant Surge in Death Toll

by Madison Thomas
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Libyan Flood Crisis

On Thursday, Libyan authorities revealed that the city of Derna has commenced the burial of thousands in mass graves, as search and rescue operations continue through the wreckage left by devastating floods. According to Derna’s mayor, the number of casualties may possibly increase threefold or more.

Details on the Libyan Flood Crisis

A particularly intense Mediterranean storm named Daniel wreaked havoc across several towns in eastern Libya, with Derna experiencing the most severe impact. On Sunday evening, dams outside the city gave way, leading to roaring floodwaters that rushed down Wadi Derna, a valley intersecting the city. The torrential waters demolished structures and swept residents out to sea.

The calamity not only highlights the force of the storm but also underlines Libya’s glaring vulnerabilities. Governed by competing administrations in the east and west, the nation has suffered from long-term neglect of its infrastructure. Local media sources confirm that the dams which failed near Derna had been constructed in the 1970s and have not received proper maintenance for several years.

Ongoing Recovery Efforts

Othman Abduljaleel, the Health Minister of eastern Libya, stated that more than 3,000 bodies have been interred as of Thursday morning, with an additional 2,000 in the process of being buried. The majority of the deceased have been laid to rest in communal graves situated outside of Derna, while some were transferred to adjacent towns and cities.

Abduljaleel also indicated that rescue operations are ongoing, including the search of ruined structures within Derna and diving operations in the surrounding sea to find victims.

Official Count and Estimates of Fatalities

As of Wednesday, the death toll in Derna stands at 5,100 according to health officials. Ossama Ali, a representative for an eastern Libyan ambulance service, mentioned that the number is expected to rise as nearly 9,000 individuals are still unaccounted for. Derna Mayor Abdel-Raham al-Ghaithi, in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabia television, suggested the death toll could escalate to as high as 20,000 considering the extent of affected neighborhoods.

An undisclosed official from the World Health Organization in Libya also speculated that the final death toll could reach up to 7,000 based on the number of missing persons. “The magnitude of this tragedy could be astonishing,” the official stated on condition of anonymity.

Apart from Derna, the storm claimed approximately 170 lives in other eastern Libyan towns, including Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz, and Marj, as per the health minister. The fatalities include at least 84 Egyptians who were repatriated on Wednesday, along with several Sudanese migrants who lost their lives in the event.

Challenges in Aid Delivery

The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reports that the flooding has resulted in a minimum displacement of 30,000 individuals in Derna. A significant number have also been forced out of their residences in other towns in eastern Libya. The catastrophic flooding has compromised key access routes to Derna, thereby constraining the timely arrival of global rescue and humanitarian aid teams.

Contributions to this report were made by Jack Jeffery in London for Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Libyan Flood Crisis

What caused the devastating floods in Derna, Libya?

An unusually strong Mediterranean storm named Daniel led to the catastrophic flooding. The storm was particularly severe in eastern Libya and had a devastating impact on the city of Derna.

How many casualties have been reported in Derna so far?

As of Wednesday, health authorities have confirmed 5,100 deaths in Derna. An additional 9,000 people are still missing, and the mayor predicts the death toll could potentially rise to 20,000.

What efforts are underway for the recovery of bodies?

More than 3,000 bodies have been buried in mass graves as of Thursday morning, according to eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel. Search and rescue operations are ongoing in both ruined structures within the city and the seawater surrounding Derna.

Why is Libya particularly vulnerable to such natural disasters?

Libya’s vulnerability is twofold: firstly, the country has been mired in conflict since its 2011 uprising, which has led to competing governments and long-term neglect of infrastructure. Secondly, the dams that failed near Derna were constructed in the 1970s and had not been maintained for several years.

Are there challenges in delivering aid to the affected areas?

Yes, the floods have compromised key access routes to Derna, thus hindering the timely arrival of international rescue and humanitarian aid teams. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration reports at least 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna alone.

What is the international response to the Libyan flood crisis?

The text does not provide information on the international response to the flood crisis in Libya.

Were other towns apart from Derna affected by the storm?

Yes, other towns in eastern Libya, including Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz, and Marj, were also affected by the storm. The health minister reported approximately 170 additional deaths in these areas.

What are the broader implications of the flood crisis?

The crisis reveals the neglected state of Libya’s infrastructure, exacerbated by political divisions. It also brings attention to the increasing incidence of extreme weather events, although the text does not explicitly link this to climate change.

More about Libyan Flood Crisis

  • Overview of the Libyan Flood Crisis
  • Effects of Mediterranean Storm Daniel on Eastern Libya
  • State of Infrastructure in Libya
  • Political Divisions Exacerbating Natural Disasters in Libya
  • United Nations’ International Organization for Migration Report on Libyan Floods
  • Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events

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