Five members of a Greek rescue team en route to the flood-ravaged city of Derna, Libya were killed in a road accident on Sunday, authorities in Athens confirmed on Monday.
A bus carrying 19 Greek rescue workers collided with a vehicle carrying five Libyan nationals on the road between the cities of Benghazi and Derna. Three Libyans in the oncoming vehicle were also killed.
The bodies of the five — three military officials and two civilians — were flown back to a military base near Athens early on Monday, together with 13 injured team members who were taken to military hospitals in the Greek capital.
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Defense Minister Nikos Dendias expressed on Monday his “deepest sorrow” for the deaths.
“The loss of their lives in an accident, during the practical demonstration of solidarity to our fellow human beings who are being tested, together with members of missions from other states, causes immense sadness to the large family of the Armed Forces, as well as to the entire Greek people,” Dendias said in a statement, adding his condolences for the families of the victims.
“We are all shocked by the deaths of rescuers who were participating in a humanitarian mission to show solidarity to the suffering Libyan people,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said. “I am deeply saddened by their unexpected death.”
Late on Sunday Greece’s General National Defense Staff (GEETHA) released the following statement:
“We announce that three members of the Greek humanitarian mission to Libya lost their lives and two are missing. An updated statement will follow.”
An earlier GEETHA statement had said that there were only slight injuries.
The Foreign Ministry had released the following statement before the fatalities were announced:
“The Greek mission that went to provide humanitarian aid in Libya had a car accident today during its road trip to the city of Derna.
“In coordination with the Ministry of National Defense, the UN and the European Union, the Consulate General of Greece in Benghazi is on hand to provide assistance to the mission and assist in its repatriation.”
Rescue workers flocked to Libya
Rescue workers from Greece, Turkey, Egypt and other countries have flocked to Derna to offer help.
Some 11,300 people died when two dams collapsed during Mediterranean storm Daniel last week sending a wall of water gushing through the city, according to the Red Crescent aid group. A further 10,000 people are missing, and presumed dead.
The disaster has brought some rare unity to oil-rich Libya, which has been divided between rival governments in the country’s east and west that are backed by various militia forces and international patrons, Associated Press (AP) reports.
Residents from the nearby cities of Benghazi and Tobruk have offered to put up the displaced, while volunteers have helped hunt for survivors buried beneath the rubble.
But the opposing governments have struggled to respond to the crisis. Their recovery efforts have been hampered by confusion, difficulty getting aid to the hardest-hit areas, and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges, AP says.
More than 3,283 bodies were buried as of Sunday, Abduljaleel said, many in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
This is a developing story