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More Than 6,000 Believed Dead in Libya Floods, 10,000 Missing

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Destruction is seen in the city of Derna, following a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hitting the country, in Libya, Sept. 13, 2023.
Destruction is seen in the city of Derna, following a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hitting the country, in Libya, Sept. 13, 2023.

The raging floods in Libya have killed more than 6,000 people, with another 10,000 reported missing, swept out to the Mediterranean Sea or buried under rubble, authorities said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration said the flooding that hit eastern Libya has displaced more than 30,000 people.

The U.N. agency said at least 30,000 of the people forced to move lived in the devastated city of Derna, with thousands more from other areas, including Benghazi. Two dams above Derna burst, adding to the flooding from the torrential rains of Storm Daniel.

The exact death toll is difficult to confirm in a country where rival governments have competed for control for a decade. Some officials say the number of deaths could double.

Hassan El Salheen weeps after burying the repatriated body of his son, Aly, who died along with his three cousins in Libya after Storm Daniel hit the country, at Al Sharief village in Bani Swief province, Egypt, Sept. 13, 2023.
Hassan El Salheen weeps after burying the repatriated body of his son, Aly, who died along with his three cousins in Libya after Storm Daniel hit the country, at Al Sharief village in Bani Swief province, Egypt, Sept. 13, 2023.

Hichem Abu Chkiouat, minister of civil aviation in the administration that runs eastern Libya, told Reuters that more than 5,300 bodies had been counted in Derna. The city was the hardest hit from the flooding.

Atiyah Alhasadi, a 30-year-old teacher from Derna, told VOA's Heather Murdock he was in his home in the center of the city when he heard what sounded like "20 million drums exploding," and water crashed in, rising 50 meters above the houses.

Alhasadi said he and his family went to the roof of the building as the lower floors were flooded immediately and watched the water rise to the fourth or fifth floors of some buildings. He said his two aunts on the first floor died in the initial rush of water, but his family was able to escape to a relative's home on higher ground.

Now, he said, he is with five or six families in one small house, searching for a vehicle to get to Benghazi or another town.

"We can't find gasoline, fuel or water," he said.

Alhasadi said people also need mattresses and medicine but there is no available humanitarian aid to be found. He noted people are sleeping on the streets without even tents, and the only hospital is barely functioning. It was just a makeshift hospital while the actual one was under construction.

Fatma Balha, a medical student in Derna, told VOA English to Africa's Hassuna Baishu that the center of Derna has suffered major damage.

"It's all gone. All the buildings are gone. It all went with the floods, probably they have gone to the sea. We cannot see the building," Balha said. "I have my aunt. She's there, and we cannot find her. None of her kids, none of their bodies. None. Not even the building. It's gone. It's not there at all."

This image grab from footage published on social networks by Libyan al-Masar television channel on Sept. 13, 2023, shows a man inspecting the body of a victim who died in the flooding after Storm Daniel hit Libya's eastern city of Derna. (Photo by Al-Masar TV / AFP)
This image grab from footage published on social networks by Libyan al-Masar television channel on Sept. 13, 2023, shows a man inspecting the body of a victim who died in the flooding after Storm Daniel hit Libya's eastern city of Derna. (Photo by Al-Masar TV / AFP)

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Wednesday the situation in Derna is very bad and that international support is needed.

Mey Al Sayegh, head of communications at the IFRC Middle East and North Africa office, said in a briefing on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that there is no clean drinking water in Derna and no medical supplies, and that the only hospital in the city could no longer take patients.

Al Sayegh said what is needed now is water, shelter, medical aid, food and psychosocial support.

Ahmed Bayram, media adviser for the Middle East at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told VOA's James Butty that Libya had already faced challenges for years and needs funding.

"This is going to be a tragic situation for tens of thousands, not just in Derna, but also across Libya," Bayram said. "The thing about this is that Libya, with its many problems, has been off the headlines for months, if not over a year now. Now it's back in the spotlight, and it is important to stress that Libya has been left behind. The Libya crisis has been left behind. And now it's time for donors to get back on track and fund this emergency."

Heather Murdock, Hassuna Baishu and James Butty contributed to this report. Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.

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