A frenetic search for survivors — or bodies — ensued in eastern Libya on Tuesday after a Mediterranean storm lashed the OPEC member’s shores, with dams collapsing and triggering floods that killed at least 2,300, almost all in one city. The International Red Cross said at least 10,000 more were missing.
(Bloomberg) — A frenetic search for survivors — or bodies — ensued in eastern Libya on Tuesday after a Mediterranean storm lashed the OPEC member’s shores, with dams collapsing and triggering floods that killed at least 2,300, almost all in one city. The International Red Cross said at least 10,000 more were missing.
The health minister of the divided North African nation’s eastern-based government, Othman Abdel-Jaleel, said 700 people from Derna had so far been identified and buried, and more than 6,000 remained unaccounted for, according to al-Masar TV. Separately, the western-based government in Tripoli said the overall toll in Derna stood at 1,900.
The storm struck shortly after Morocco suffered its most powerful earthquake in a century, with at least 2,900 people killed in the kingdom.
Libya’s situation “is the very definition of a disaster,” Abdel-Jaleel said in a clip carried by the TV station. “The corpses are still scattered” in various hospitals awaiting identification.
Osama Ali, the spokesman for Libya’s Emergency Authority, told Bloomberg the death toll had reached 2,300 and 5,000 more were missing.
Libya’s envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told reporters in Geneva that 10,000 people were missing, according to the Associated Press.
The conflicting figures provided by various officials underscores the difficulties authorities face just to determine the scope of the damage, let alone reach survivors. Abdel-Jaleel, the health minister, said water levels had reached the fourth and fifth floors of some buildings in Derna.
The toll, which seemed poised to rise given the number of missing people, appears to be the result of two dams bursting after excessive rainfall. Flooding reportedly covered entire areas in Derna, which sits about 290 kilometers east of Benghazi. There was also severe damage in Benghazi, Sousse and Al-Bayda, according to reports.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said his country, which sits on Libya’s eastern border, would provide assistance and offer its military to help with search and rescue efforts.
The number killed as a result of Hurricane Daniel has surpassed that of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf coast of the US in 2005 and left over 1,800 dead – making it the second deadliest storm in American modern history.
Khalifa Haftar, who heads the most powerful military force in Libya’s east, said rescue efforts were underway to help those stranded and find the missing.
Those efforts are likely being hindered by the nation’s tumultuous politics. The country, which sits atop Africa’s largest proven reserves of crude oil, has been mired in conflict for much of the past decade. It’s split between rival administrations in the east and west. Repeated efforts to broker a political agreement have largely failed.
Both governments have declared three days of mourning.
Libya’s east, where Haftar’s Libyan National Army is based, is home to the brunt of the country’s oil wealth and ports. It was also home to religious extremists, including those allied with the Islamic State, with Derna among the epicenters, after the fall of dictator Moammar Al Qaddafi in 2011.
Haftar’s forces largely crushed the Islamists and restored some semblance of order. But the east has continued to complain of neglect and a lack of funding, with disputes arising between the rival administrations about the allocation of the country’s oil wealth. The dearth of funding, along with the chronic unrest, meant there’s been little money for maintaining vital infrastructure.
While some progress toward unifying key institutions has been made, particularly with regard to the central bank, challenges related to distribution of wealth and overall services remain. The fighting has occasionally affected oil ports and exports.
Libya Oil Ports Reopen After Storm, Infrastructure Undamaged
The country’s main energy ports of Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Hariga, which had closed as a result of the storm, were reopened, according to people familiar with the matter. They suffered no significant damage, the people said.
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