DERNA, Libya — The death toll from floods in Libya in one city alone stands at more than 1,000, a senior official who visited the eastern port of Derna has said.
“Bodies are lying everywhere,” the minister from the eastern-based government told Reuters news agency.
Much of Derna, which has about 100,000 residents, is under water after two dams and four bridges collapsed.
Up to 10,000 people are recorded to be missing after the flooding as a result of Storm Daniel, the Red Cross says.
The storm, which hit on Sunday, is also affecting the eastern cities of Benghazi, Soussa and Al-Marj.
“The number of bodies recovered in Derna is more [than] 1,000,” Hichem Chkiouat, the aviation minister and part of the eastern government’s emergency response committee, told Reuters by phone.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed.”
Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya, has told reporters the death toll is likely to be “huge”.
Speaking via video link from neighboring Tunisia, he said: “Our teams on the ground are still doing their assessment… we don’t have a definite number right now. The number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far.”
Earlier, Eastern Prime Minister Osama Hamad put the death toll at 2,000, telling a Libyan TV channel: “Entire neighborhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents… swept away by water.”
Alongside areas in the east, the western city of Misrata was among those hit by the floods.
Libya has been in political chaos since long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011 – leaving the country effectively split with an interim, internationally recognized government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another one in the east.
According to Libyan journalist Abdulkader Assad, this is hampering rescue efforts as the various authorities are not able to respond with agility to a natural disaster.
“There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years was about war,” he told the BBC.
“There are two governments in Libya… and that is actually slowing down the help that is coming to Libya because it’s a little bit confusing. You have people who are pledging help but the help is not coming.”
The Tripoli-based administration has sent a plane with 14 tonnes of medical supplies, body bags and more than 80 doctors and paramedics.
The US special envoy to Libya, Richard Norton, has said that Washington is to send aid to eastern Libya in co-ordination with UN partners and the Libyan authorities.
Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or ready to send aid. — BBC