Eastern Libya is reeling from a devastating flood disaster, claiming the lives of at least 150 individuals, as confirmed by an official source on Monday, the catastrophe unfolded following the passage of Storm Daniel, which had earlier unleashed its destructive force on Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria.
During an appearance on the Almasar channel, Osama Hamad, the head of the executive in eastern Libya, presented staggering figures, asserting “more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing” in the city of Derna. However, it’s important to note that as of now, no official medical or rescue service source has confirmed this high death toll.
The media in eastern Libya extensively covered Mr. Hamad’s statements, but they provided contrasting figures from various localities, which were significantly lower than his claims.
Earlier, Mohamed Massoud, the spokesman for the head of the eastern Libyan executive, reported, “At least 150 people were killed due to flooding caused by storm Daniel in Derna, in the Jabal Al-Akhdar regions, and in the suburbs of Al-Marj,” according to AFP.
Storm Daniel, characterized by experts as “extreme in terms of the amount of water falling,” has already exacted a heavy toll, claiming the lives of at least 27 individuals in recent days across Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria.
On Sunday afternoon, Daniel made landfall in eastern Libya, particularly impacting coastal towns like Jabal al-Akhdar in the northeast and even reaching Benghazi, prompting the declaration of a curfew and the closure of schools.
Notably, the eastern region of Libya houses vital oil fields and terminals. In response to the storm’s threat, the National Oil Company (NOC) has issued a “state of maximum alert” and taken measures such as “suspending flights” between production sites, leading to a significant reduction in activity in the oil sector.
On Sunday, rescue teams were mobilized to respond to the crisis unfolding in Derna, a city located 900 kilometers east of Tripoli and 300 kilometres east of Benghazi. Derna had previously endured significant damage during violent clashes in 2018 between the forces led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, a prominent figure in eastern Libya, and radical Islamist groups that had held control over the city.
Derna, with a population of over 100,000, is situated along the coast and is intersected by a wadi (dry riverbed) that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the storm, this wadi overflowed by approximately fifty meters on each side, resulting in the inundation and destruction of buildings and homes in its path. Video footage broadcast by the media vividly captured the extent of the devastation.
In an announcement made earlier on Monday, Mr. Hamad declared Derna a “disaster area” before embarking on a mission with his ministers. Meanwhile, hundreds of residents remain stranded in remote and challenging-to-reach areas, as rescue teams, with the support of the army, work tirelessly to assist them.
Tragically, during rescue operations in the town, authorities in eastern Libya have “lost contact with nine soldiers,” as reported by Mr Massoud.
Residents in eastern cities such as Derna, al-Bayda, and smaller towns have captured harrowing images, showcasing dramatic mudslides, entire neighbourhoods submerged underwater, and extensive damage including collapsed roads and buildings.
A Derna city council official characterized the situation in his city as “catastrophic,” “out of control,” and in desperate need of “national and international intervention,” as conveyed to the local channel Libya al-Ahrar.
Furthermore, the head of the Presidential Council, Mohamad al-Manfi, on Monday, issued an appeal for assistance from “brotherly and friendly countries and international organizations.” He officially declared the cities of Derna, Shahat, and al-Bayda in eastern Libya as “disaster zones,” according to a statement posted on Facebook.