The Libyan Red Crescent reported that the dead toll in Derna, a coastal city in Libya, has risen to 11,300 as search efforts continue in the wake of a catastrophic flood caused by the breaching of two dams after heavy rains.
Another 10,100 individuals are listed as missing in the Mediterranean city, according to Marie el-Drese, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya. The previous death toll estimate from health authorities for Derna was 5,500. About 170 additional individuals were killed by the storm elsewhere in the nation.
The figure could reach 20,000, according to Derna’s mayor, Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, given how many neighbourhoods were affected.
On Sunday night, flooding in Derna carried away entire families, exposing weaknesses in the oil-rich nation, which has been embroiled in strife ever since a 2011 uprising that deposed long-reigning dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
“Within seconds the water level suddenly rose,” recounted one injured survivor who said he was swept away with his mother in the late-night ordeal before they both managed to scramble into an empty building downstream.
“The water was rising with us until we got to the fourth floor,” the unidentified man said from his hospital bed, in testimony published by the Benghazi Medical Center
“We could hear screams. From the window, I saw cars and bodies being carried away by the water. It lasted an hour or an hour and a half – but for us, it felt like a year.
The number of fatalities in Derna was far lower, according to Tariq al-Kharaz, a spokesman for the interior ministry, at around 3,000.
“The catastrophe is massive and as a result access to many areas is not possible. Many areas suffered total damage. Many dead bodies are still under the debris, others washed away into the sea,” al-Kharaz told Al Jazeera.
According to Health Minister Othman Abduljalil, the storm also claimed the lives of over 170 individuals in other areas of eastern Libya, including the cities of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz, and Marj.
According to IFRC, rescuers searching amid the mud and debris remain optimistic about finding survivors.
“The hope is there, is always there, to find people alive,” said Tamer Ramadan, head of the group’s rescue effort in the North African country.