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Libya: Catastrophic Flood Wipe Out Quarter Of The City Of Derna, 8,000 Dead 10,000 Feared Missing

Relentless floodwater sweeping the living away, washed the bodies back onto the shores of eastern Libya on Wednesday September 13. The bodies were piled on the shore, making it difficult to count them . The bodies were washed on the shore faster than the devastated city of Derna could bury them. Libyan officials confirmed that death toll of 8,000 and stated 10,000 people are missing.

On Sunday, September 10, Storm Daniel hit Libya. It was a new rainfall record, Libya’s National Meteorological Centre said. The storm brought more than 400 mm of rain to parts of the north-east coast within a period of 24 hours. The region usually sees 1.5mm of rain throughout the whole of September.

Adding to the predicament, two dams were overtopped. The Wadi Derna river runs from Libya’s inland mountains, through the city of Derna and into the Mediterranean sea. The river is dry for much of the year, but the unusually heavy rain overwhelmed two crucial dams causing release of enormous amounts of water that destroyed several bridges.

The debris caught up in the floodwaters and downhill flow added to the destructive power of the deluge. On Sunday night Derna was destroyed beyond recognition when both dams burst on the Wadi Derna River consequently causing waves 23 feet high to rush through the town and into the sea. Multistorey buildings collapsed with families sleeping inside, people were caught unaware as they were sleeping.

“Bodies are lying everywhere — in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings. I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed, ” Hichem Abu Chkiouat, Civil Aviation minister in Libya’s eastern government, told Reuters. The “sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies,” Chkiouat added.

On Wednesday, officials in the coastal town of Tocra, to the west of Derna and east of Benghazi, warned that a dam there could also collapse and cause similar scenes of destruction. Nearby residents were urged to leave immediately, Libyan state run news agency reported. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency some 30,000 people from Derna alone have been displaced after the raging water destroyed houses and washed them away or ruined completely.

Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi, Mayor of Derna told international media outlet that the estimated number of deaths in Derna could reach between 18,000 to 20,000 based on the number of districts destroyed by the flood. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are expected to be found under the debris.

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