Tragedy strikes as tsunami-like flood engulfs Libyan city of Derna, leaving thousands miissing


The coastal city of Derna, Libya, remains in a state of shock and despair as emergency teams tirelessly search for the thousands still unaccounted for in the wake of a devastating flash flood.

This natural disaster, which struck the city with unparalleled force, claimed the lives of at least 4,000 individuals, leaving behind a scene reminiscent of an apocalyptic wasteland.

The catastrophe unfolded when a colossal surge of water breached two upstream dams, unleashing a torrential flood that engulfed Derna. This deluge transformed city blocks into ruins and swept countless lives and vehicles into the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

A witness described the horrifying ordeal, stating, “Within seconds, the water level suddenly rose. It carried us to the fourth floor, with the water reaching up to the second floor. We could hear screams, and from our window, we witnessed cars and bodies being carried away by the relentless flood. It lasted an hour or an hour and a half – but for us, it felt like a year.”

Derna’s streets are now lined with hundreds of body bags, awaiting mass burials. Traumatized residents are desperately searching damaged buildings for missing loved ones, while bulldozers work tirelessly to clear debris and heaps of sand that have accumulated.

In the midst of this tragedy, stories of heartbreak and loss are emerging. One rescue team discovered a woman’s lifeless arms still clutching her deceased child in a shattered home.

Yann Fridez, the head of the Libya delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, described the disaster as “violent and brutal,” with a massive wave wiping out structures and washing away critical infrastructure. Families are now grappling with the loss of loved ones, the grim reality of bodies washing ashore, and the destruction of their homes.

Abdelaziz Bousmya, a resident of the Chiha neighborhood that was spared the worst of the devastation, estimates that at least ten percent of Derna’s population, which stands at 100,000, lost their lives. “I lost my friends, my loved ones – they are either buried under the mud or swept out to sea by the floodwaters,” he lamented.

The catastrophic floods were triggered by Storm Daniel, a hurricane-strength weather system, and were exacerbated by Libya’s fragile infrastructure, still reeling from the aftermath of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that led to the fall of Moamer Kadhafi.

Currently, Libya is divided between two rival authorities, further complicating the response to this disaster. UN World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas pointed out that many lives could have been saved with better early warning and emergency management systems. He emphasized the need for improved coordination to issue timely warnings and carry out evacuations effectively.

The access to Derna remains severely restricted, as roads and bridges have been washed away, and power and communication lines severed. Approximately 30,000 people are now homeless in the affected areas, and climate experts are linking this disaster to the combined effects of a warming planet and Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Storm Daniel, which gained strength during an unusually hot summer, had previously wreaked havoc in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece, claiming the lives of at least 27 people. UN rights commissioner Volker Turk emphasized that Storm Daniel serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of a changing climate on our world.

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