Wednesday September 27, 2023

Humanitarian aid reaches flood-hit Libya as death toll rises to 11,300 in Derna

Rescuers reveal bodies are "severely decomposing" in the Mediterranean while urging assistance

By Web Desk
September 17, 2023
Members of the Emirati Rescue Team assist in relief work in Libyas eastern city of Derna on September 16, 2023, following deadly flash floods. — AFP
Members of the Emirati Rescue Team assist in relief work in Libya's eastern city of Derna on September 16, 2023, following deadly flash floods. — AFP

The death toll in Derna, Libya has reached 11,300, according to a UN report on Saturday, a week after a wall of water rushed through the coastal city, turning the focus to caring for survivors of the disaster.

Citing the Libyan Red Crescent, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian (OCHA) Affairs added that another 10,100 people were still missing in the devastated city.

"These figures are expected to rise in the coming days and weeks as search-and-rescue crews work tirelessly to find survivors," according to the OCHA report, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, aid is being provided to North Africa as the world mobilises to assist emergency services in the aftermath of a deadly flood, which has displaced at least 40,000 people in northeastern Libya, though the actual number is likely higher due to access difficulties.

Two dams built to protect Derna, a port city of 100,000 people, burst a week ago due to Storm Daniel's torrential rains. The dams were built to protect the port city of 100,000 people after it was hit by significant flooding in the mid-20th century.

Last week's torrent swept everything before the heavily built-up banks of a dried riverbed as it rushed towards the Mediterranean.

Derna, a disaster epicentre, was split into two after flood waters swept entire neighbourhoods, displacing at least 30,000 people, with a population of around 100,000 before the tragedy, the UN said.

"With thousands of displaced people now on the move, the risk of exposure to landmines and Explosive Ordnance of War (ERW) leftover from years of conflict is on the rise, as flood waters have now shifted landmines and ERW," OCHA said.

Storm Daniel's flooding has exposed nearly 300,000 children to increased risks of cholera, malnutrition, diarrhoea, dehydration, and "increased risks of violence and exploitation," the report added.

Bodies still being found after a week

A rescue crew from Malta's Civil Protection Department discovered a beach strewn with dead bodies on Friday, the Times of Malta newspaper reported.

"Bodies are severely decomposing and at one point retrieving them might not be possible," a representative from the Tunisian mission said in a meeting with counterparts from Russia, Arab countries, Turkey and Italy.

"We need assistance so our intervention is more efficient," the representative added.

Many of the remains were discovered in bays and coves in the Mediterranean that could only be reached by boat, according to other mission representatives from Egypt and the UAE, CNN reported.

Additionally, an Algerian mission spokesperson revealed that about 50 victims were found by a rescuer, hanging from a cliff about seven nautical miles from the Derna port, in a region that was only accessible by divers and boats.

"If we get the right boats we can retrieve 100 bodies every day," the Egyptian representative said.

Teams cautioned that if regions are not evacuated, dead remains that are trapped under mounds of mud in still-inhabited residential sections of Derna might cause a health problem.

Meanwhile, UN, Europe and the Middle East are providing international aid to thousands of survivors of the recent earthquake, including essential medicines, emergency surgical supplies, body bags, tents, blankets, carpets, hygiene kits, food, and heavy machinery for debris clearance.