Libya flooding deaths top 11,000 with another 10,000 missing

LONDON — The death toll from devastating floods in eastern Libya has surpassed 11,000, according to the Libyan Red Crescent, as rescuers desperately try to help those who managed to survive the disaster.

The Libyan Red Crescent said Friday that at least 11,300 people had died and another 10,100 were reported missing.

Mediterranean storm Daniel is behind the widespread flooding in the North African nation, as it washed away entire neighborhoods over the weekend and swept bodies out to sea.

The port city of Derna was the worst affected following the collapse of two dams, which wiped out a quarter of the area. The city has been declared a disaster zone, with electricity and communication having been cut off, according to local officials.

An assessment team visiting Derna on Thursday said people were returning to what was left of their homes in desperation.

“What I saw there is … the situation is devastating … a lot of destruction and ruins, around 25% of the city was basically destroyed as a result of the flooding,” Talal Burnaz, the acting country director in Libya for the International Medical Corps, told ABC News.

PHOTO: People pray at the graves of the flash flood victims in Derna, Libya, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

People pray at the graves of the flash flood victims in Derna, Libya, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

Yousef Murad/AP

“Whenever you see a search and rescue team you will see families standing there with tears in their eyes asking for support and hoping that they will basically find one of their family members alive,” Burnaz said.

Burnaz said they were still pulling people out of the rubble Thursday. He saw one rescue and heard of four more when he visited the last remaining government run hospital in Derna. The survivors had been trapped under rubble since the early hours of Monday morning.

Some help is getting through the one road that leads to the devastated areas. Burnaz saw international search and rescue teams — from Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Spain — and he drove past convoys of help coming from all over Libya.

“There were many local authorities there — army, police, scouts, Libyan Red Cross — trying to retrieve either bodies or trying to find survivors under the rubble,” Burnaz said.

Doctors Without Borders dispatched an emergency team from Misrata to Derna that arrived Thursday to assess the needs in the aftermath of storm Daniel, despite challenging conditions as the city was split in two between east and west by the flooding.

The group’s medical coordinator for Libya said the situation is chaotic with volunteers coming from everywhere in Libya to help, leaving an enormous need for coordination.

“There are no dead bodies in the street anymore, no wounded that we can see in the hospital,” Manoelle Carton, Doctors Without Borders’ medical coordinator for Libya, said Friday. “It’s more the day-to-day health needs that are coming up again — chronic diseases. We can clearly identify a huge need in mental health support. Everybody is asking for it, from people in the streets, to the medical doctors that assisted people, from the people who saw the events, to the people who lost their entire families.”

PHOTO: Volunteers walk past damaged homes after the Mediterranean storm "Daniel" hit Libya's eastern city of Derna on September 15, 2023.

Volunteers walk past damaged homes after the Mediterranean storm “Daniel” hit Libya’s eastern city of Derna on Sept. 15, 2023.

Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images

Carton said the emergency team, comprising of a logistician and three medical staff, began assessing primary health centers in the city on Friday.

“We visited three health centers in the west — one is not active because almost all of the medical staff died. The two others health centers are active with volunteer doctors from Tripoli, but they are asking for support — mainly for mental health to support people coming to the center,” Carton said.

Carton said the situation of internally displaced people is still unclear, saying the group identified a space in the west of Tripoli with about 3,000 displaced people, but there are more sheltering in the homes of friends and colleagues.

PHOTO: A flash flood-damaged area is pictured in Derna, eastern Libya, on Sept. 14, 2023.

A flash flood-damaged area is pictured in Derna, eastern Libya, on Sept. 14, 2023.

Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images

Libya’s National Center of Meteorology reported that more than 16 inches of rain fell in the northeastern city of Bayda within a 24-hour period to Sunday, according to the flood tracking website Floodlist.

A number of countries have vowed to send aid to Libya, but getting the supplies into the affected areas has proven difficult with many roads blocked and bridges destroyed. Rescue efforts have also been hampered by the current political situation in Libya, with the oil-rich country split between two warring governments — one in the east and the other in the west.

The head of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization said Thursday that most of Libya’s flooding casualties could have been avoided if the divided country had a functioning meteorological service.

Those that have lost their homes are being housed in municipal building like schools and universities, according to Burnaz.

“If you see the amount of destruction and the area that’s been destroyed — it’s big. You can see cars in the third and fourth floors of the building stuck there … it was massive, like something never seen before,” Burnaz said.

ABC News’ Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

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