Search efforts intensified Tuesday for thousands of people feared dead after a storm ravaged Libya’s eastern region, killing around 2,000 in one city and leaving many more missing.
(Bloomberg) — Search efforts intensified Tuesday for thousands of people feared dead after a storm ravaged Libya’s eastern region, killing around 2,000 in one city and leaving many more missing.
The health minister of the divided North African nation’s eastern-based government, Othman Abdel-Galeel, said 700 people from the city of 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 potentially staggering toll, particularly in Derna, which juts into the Mediterranean about 290 kilometers east of Benghazi, appears largely the product of two dams bursting from excessive rainfall. Flooding reportedly swept away entire buildings. There was also severe damage in Benghazi, Sousse and Al-Bayda, according to reports.
Khalifa Haftar, who heads the most powerful military force in the 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 OPEC member, 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 and investments, along with the chronic unrest, meant there was 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.
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, and suffered no material damages.
Eastern Libya Oil Ports Said to Reopen After Deadly Storm
The storm hit soon after a devastating earthquake in Morocco on Friday. Egypt, Libya’s eastern neighbor, declared a three-day mourning period in solidarity with the two nations. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi also ordered his military to provide aid to Libya and Morocco.
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