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Thousands Flee Devastating Floods in Southwest Libya

The U.N. refugee agency reports heavy flooding has devastated whole neighborhoods in the city of Ghat in south-west Libya forcing thousands of people to flee for their lives.

The U.N. refugee agency reports heavy flooding has forced more than 2,500 people to flee their homes. It says the torrential rains, which began nearly two weeks ago have ravaged the town of Ghat, killing four people, including three children and injuring more than 30 others.

The UNHCR reports the rising floodwaters have caused huge material damage, cutting off main roads and telecommunication networks for days. Agency spokesman, Charlie Yaxley says Ghat’s only hospital is flooded.

“All 20,000 of Ghat’s inhabitants are now in need of humanitarian support. Shelter, food and basic items are urgently needed…Many have been forced to move in with relatives, while others are sheltering in makeshift sites, such as schools and other community structures…In some areas, houses and crops have been destroyed and people reliant on their farmland as their sole source of income are set to face major challenges ahead,” said Yaxley.

Yaxley says the UNHCR is rushing aid to the area including family tents, mattresses, blankets, drinkable water, plastic sheets and clothes for 400 displaced families. The Libyan Red Crescent reportedly is carrying out search and rescue operations for people trapped by the flooding.

Ghat is located near the Algerian border and some 1,300 kilometers southwest of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It is controlled by independent Tuareg forces. The town reportedly has been taken over by rebel commander Khalifa Hafter, who is waging war against Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli.

The Libyan National Army, led by Hafter, began a march on Tripoli two months ago to seize control of the city and the government. In the lead up to this military operation, the LNA claimed it had taken the south western towns of Awainat and Ghat without a fight.

The legitimately recognized government in Tripoli has declared Ghat a disaster zone and provided more than seven million dollars to help the flood victims.

Libya’s rival internationally unrecognized eastern-based interim government, which broadly supports Hafter, reportedly is sending truckloads of emergency supplies to Ghat.