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Deadly Floods in Libya Leave 10,000 Missing

Damaged cars are piled up after a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit in Derna, Libya, Sept. 12, 2023.

Some 10,000 people were reported missing and more than 2,000 were confirmed dead in Libya's eastern city of Derna after severe flooding reduced entire neighborhoods to muddy rubble.

On Sunday, Mediterranean storm Daniel deluged Derna with 440 millimeters of rain, according to Karsten Haustein, a climatologist at Leipzig University. Dams collapsed. Levees burst with floodwater. The city's main roads suddenly became rivers, and the rushing currents floated cars downstream like dinghies. Video posted to social media showed streets turned to raging rivers in Derna, as well as Benghazi, Sousse, Al Bayda and Al-Marj.

On Tuesday, more than a day and a half after the initial flooding, outside aid was finally able to reach the city of 89,000.

VOA60 World - Libya floods kill at least 2,300, as many as 10,000 missing
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"In this difficult hour, the United States is sending emergency funds to relief organizations and coordinating with the Libyan authorities and the U.N. to provide additional support," President Joe Biden announced in a statement on Tuesday.

So far, emergency response teams of volunteers and law enforcement officers have collected more than 1,000 corpses. Officials say at least 700 people have been buried, some in mass graves. Video footage showed scores of covered bodies in rows in front of an area hospital. Eyewitnesses have described bodies lying on the sidewalk.

Derna's ambulance authority says the death toll is at 2,300. But thousands more are suspected to have perished beneath the vast wreckage.

"It's still very early to grasp how disastrous this situation is, but from what we're seeing now, this has been a huge hit to Libya in terms of historical disastrous situation," Libya-based humanitarian worker Rami Musa told VOA's English to Africa division.

"The normal floods that we see because of the lack of infrastructure that every time it rains heavily that we have street floods, you know, one or two meters that's usually expected due to the titrating infrastructure, but this magnitude has never been seen before," Musa added.

Tamer Ramadan, Libya envoy for the Red Cross, said the disaster in Libya is "as devastating as the situation in Morocco," where thousands of casualties have been reported after a terrible earthquake rattled towns east of Marrakesh on Friday.

VOA's Hassuna Baishu contributed to this report. Some information was provided by the Associated Press.