West News Wire: The mayor of Derna, a port city in eastern Libya, warned the local television station Al Arabiya on Wednesday that the dead toll from the devastating flash flooding there could exceed 20,000.
Given the scale of the damage brought on by the floods in a number of districts, Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi stated that he thinks between 18,000 and 20,000 people may have perished. Prior to the disaster, the city had a population of about 125,000.
Authorities from the divided nation’s eastern government estimated that at least 5,300 deaths and 10,000 reported missing cases had occurred as of Tuesday. On Sunday, the violent storm in the Mediterranean destroyed two dams and washed entire neighbourhoods into the water.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation in the administration that runs eastern Libya, told Reuters on Wednesday that more than 5,300 had been confirmed dead so far, adding that the number was likely to double.
“[The] sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies,” Chkiouat told Reuters on Wednesday.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed,” he said.
Spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, Lieutenant Tarek al-Kharraz, told the AFP news agency that 3,190 people had already been buried. At least 400 of those killed were foreigners, mostly from Sudan and Egypt.
Rescuers are burying the victims in “three mass graves” because of a lack of time and space to bury them individually, said Osama Ali, a spokesman for Libya’s Ambulance and Emergency Center, according to a Financial Times report.
Teams have arrived in the country of North Africa to take part in ongoing search and rescue operations from Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.
Since Muammar Gaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya has been ruled by two rival governments, one of which is the internationally recognised Government of National Unity, based in the western city of Tripoli, and the other in the eastern city of Derna.
Volker Turk, the high commissioner for human rights of the United Nations, encouraged the political parties on Wednesday to “act collectively in ensuring access to relief.”
In Libya, where it already provides assistance to more than 52,000 individuals, including internally displaced people, returnees, and migrants in urban areas, the UN World Food Programme announced the delivery of its first cargo of food aid.
On Tuesday, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said a fund of $10 million had been set aside to assist those impacted by floods.