Officials in eastern Libya say at least 2,000 people are dead and several thousand others missing after two dams collapsed in the eastern coastal city of Derna, sweeping away large chunks of the city and leaving outlying regions under water. The dams collapsed under pressure from Storm Daniel, which wreaked havoc across eastern Libya Sunday.
Torrents of water rushed through streets and alleyways, causing buildings to collapse and sweeping away vehicles in Derna.
The dams collapsing caused a deluge of water that inflicted the massive damage following heavy rain from Storm Daniel, a strong cyclone which hit the area.
Rescuers carried hundreds of people to safety in eastern Libya's largest city of Benghazi, after water surrounded their homes and vehicles. Thousands of people were reportedly missing and eastern Libya's interior minister told local media that one quarter of Derna "was swept away by the flooding."
Residents of Derna piled bodies in front of buildings and in makeshift morgues, lamenting the heavy death toll and the loss of many families in the flooding. Eyewitness reports say that corpses lined the streets in many parts of the city and many others were carried away by the waters.
Libyan media reported that the color of the sea along the coast of Derna had become a shade of brown from the muddy waters that flowed from the city into the Mediterranean.
A local doctor from Derna's rescue squad, Oussama Ali, told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV that "many corpses had been taken to the city's al-Ghobba Hospital, but that rescue workers were trying to bury the dead as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of any diseases." He said that it was "unlikely that many of those who were missing would be found alive."
Col. Ahmed Almasmari, a spokesman for eastern Libyan military commander Gen. Khalifa Hafter, told Arab media that the collapse of the two old dams caused the torrential flooding.
He said that flood waters filled the mostly dry riverbeds surrounding Derna, sweeping away three bridges that divide the city into two parts and causing several dams to collapse from the pressure of the flood waters.
Interior Minister Issam Abou Zareiba told Arab media that several European countries, as well as neighboring Egypt had sent planes and rescue workers to help local officials trying to cope with the flooding and heavy casualties.
Workers and residents of eastern Libyan towns and cities from Benghazi to the Egyptian border spent much of the day Tuesday clearing mud and rubble from many streets that remained impassible from debris carried away by flood waters.
Eastern military commander Gen. Haftar, in a televised address late Monday, called on the country's central bank to "release money to provide relief to those who had been hurt by the flooding and to help local officials carry out rescue work."
Libya has two rival governments, one in the east of the country and the other in the capital, Tripoli, and political and economic decision-making is often paralyzed by the split.