Emergency Workers uncovered more than 1,500 bodies in the wreckage of Libya’s eastern city of Derna on September 12, 2023, and it was feared that the toll could spiral with ten thousand people reported still missing after the floodwaters smashed through dams and washed away the entire neighbourhoods of the city.
The death toll in Derna, Libya alone has exceeded more than 5,300 and the state-run news agency quoted Mohammed-Abu-Lamousha, a spokesperson of the east Libya interior ministry on September 12, 2023, The Derna ambulance authority earlier put the toll at 2300.
Poor Situation of Libyan Government
The startling death and devastation borne by the Mediterranean storm Daniel pointed out the intensity as well as the vulnerability of a nation torn apart by chaos for more than one decade. The country is divided by rival governments in the east and the other in the west and the result has been a strong neglect of infrastructure in many areas.
Outside help and aid were only just starting to reach Derna on September 12, 2023, more than 36 hours after the disaster struck. The floods damaged and destroyed many access roads to the coastal city of some 89,000.
Causes for Aggravation of Large-Scale Destruction
Karsten Haustein a climatologist “The infrastructure could probably not cope, leading to the collapse of the dam,” he said, adding that human-induced rises in water surface temperatures likely added to the storm’s intensity.
Local authorities have neglected Derna for years. “Even the maintenance aspect was simply absent. Everything kept being delayed,” said Jalel Harchaoui, an associate fellow specializing in Libya at the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.
Factionalism also comes into play. Derna was for several years controlled by Islamic militant groups. Military commander Khalifa Hifter, the strongman of the east Libya government, captured the city in 2019 only after months of tough urban fighting.
The eastern government has been suspicious of the city ever since and has sought to sideline its residents from any decision-making, said Harchaoui. “This mistrust might prove calamitous during the upcoming post-disaster period,” he said.
Destruction Caused by the Storm
The footage showed dozens of bodies covered by blankets in the yard of one hospital and another image showed a mass grave piled with bodies. More than 1,500 corpses were recovered and half of them were buried on the evening of September 12, 2023, the Health Minister of Libya said.
But the toll is much likely to be higher in the thousands said Tamer Ramadan, the Libyan envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He told a UN briefing in Geneva via video conference from the neighbouring nation of Tunisia that at least 10,000 people were still missing. On September 12, 2023, he said more than 40,000 people were displaced.
The situation in Libya is as famous and devastating as in Morocco, Ramadan said referring to the massive earthquake that hit near the city of Marrakesh on the night of September 8, 2023.
The destruction came to the coastal city of Derna on September 10, 2023 As the storm pounded the coasts, Derna residents said that they heard loud explosions and realized that the dams outside the city have been collapsed. As a result of floods were leashed down on the Wadi Derna, a river running from the mountains through the city into the sea.
According to a resident Ahmed Abdallah, the wall of water erased everything in its way. Videos posted by the residents showed large swaths of mud and wreckage, where the raging waters had swept away the neighbourhoods on both banks of the river.
Multi-storied apartments that were once back from the rivers had façades ripped away and concrete floors collapsed. The cars that were lifted by the flood were dumped on top of each other. On September 12, 2023, the Libyan Meteorological Centre said that it issued warnings for storm Daniel, an extreme weather event 72 hours before its occurrence and notified their governmental authorities by emails and through the media.
The same day, local emergency responders and troops, government workers along with volunteers and residents dug through the rubble looking for the dead. They also used inflatable boats to retrieve bodies from the water.
Eastern Libya’s health minister Othman Abduljaleel said many bodies were trapped underneath the rubble and washed out in the Mediterranean Sea. We were stunned by the amount of destruction and the tragedy is very significant and beyond the capacity of Derna and the government, Abdulajaleel said.
Red Cresent Teams were sent from other parts of Libya and also arrived in Derna on the morning of September 12, 2023, but extra excavators and other equipment had yet to get there. Flooding often happens in Libya during the rainy season, but the magnitude of this destruction is very rare.
The storm hit other areas in eastern Libya, including the town of Bayda, where about 50 people were reported dead. The Medical Center of Bayda, the main hospital, was flooded and patients had to be evacuated, according to footage shared by the centre on a social media site.
Other towns that suffered included Susa, Marj and Shahatt, according to the government. Hundreds of families were displaced and took shelter in schools and other government buildings in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern Libya
The Tripoli-based government of western Libya also sent a plane with 14 tons of medical supplies and health workers to Benghazi. It also said it had allocated the equivalent of $412 million for reconstruction in Derna and other eastern towns.
Aeroplanes arrived Tuesday in Benghazi carrying humanitarian aid and rescue teams from Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt’s military chief of staff met with Hifter to coordinate aid. Germany, France and Italy said they also were sending rescue personnel and aid.