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Thousands Feared Dead From Floods in Libya

Libya floods
The destruction appeared to be worst in Derna. Credit: Twitter/WxNB

Mediterranean Storm Daniel, which caused destruction in Greece, moved to Libya where floods swept away entire neighborhoods and wrecked homes in multiple coastal towns in the east of the North African nation.

As many as 2,000 people were feared dead, one of the country’s leaders said Monday.

The destruction appeared to be worst in Derna, a city formerly held by extremists in the chaos that has gripped Libya for more than a decade and left it with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure. Libya remains divided between two rival administrations, one in the east and one in the west, each backed by militias and foreign governments.

According to health authorities, the confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61 as of late Monday.

But the tally did not include Derna, which had become inaccessible, and many of the thousands missing there were believed carried away by waters.

Video by residents of the city posted online showed significant devastation. Entire residential areas were erased along a river that runs down from the mountains through the city center. Multi-story apartment buildings that once stood well back from the river were partially collapsed into the mud.

2,000 feared dead from the floods in Libya

In a phone interview with al-Masar television station Monday, Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government said 2,000 were feared dead in Derna and thousands were believed missing. He said Derna has been declared a disaster zone.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the country’s armed forces based in the east, told a news conference that the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000. He said there were between 5,000 and 6,000 reported missing. Al-Mosmari attributed the catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, causing a lethal flash flood.

In Derna, local media said the situation was catastrophic with no electricity or communications.

Essam Abu Zeriba, the interior minister of the east Libya government, said more than 5,000 people were expected to be missing in Derna. He said many of the victims were swept away towards the Mediterranean.

“The situation is tragic,” he declared in a telephone interview with AlArabiya. He urged local and international agencies to rush to help the city.

Meanwhile, Greece has asked for EU assistance after storm Daniel caused devasting floods in the region of Thessaly and claimed the lives of at least 15 people.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a letter to EU Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen seeking the “maximum possible” financial aid from the EU.

Before a meeting with von der Leyen on Tuesday in Strasbourg, the Greek leader said, “Europe must stand by our country […] we demand from Europe to rise to the occasion.”

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