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Libya’s Death Toll Surpasses 6,000 In Devastating Floods, Urgent Burial Efforts Underway

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(CTN NEWS) – Libya is facing a race against time to lay to rest the deceased, as the streets of Derna, a northern coastal city, are inundated with bodies. This catastrophe follows a torrential downpour that breached two dams, causing extensive flooding and sweeping homes into the sea.

As of Wednesday morning, the death toll has climbed to more than 6,000 people, as reported by Saadeddin Abdul Wakil, the health ministry’s undersecretary for the Unity Government in Tripoli, one of the country’s two rival governments.

Hospitals are grappling with overflowing morgues and remain incapacitated, despite the urgent need to provide care to survivors of this calamity, according to hospital staff.

Tragically, around 10,000 individuals are unaccounted for, potentially either swept out to sea or buried under the debris that now litters a city that once housed over 100,000 residents, according to authorities.

The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya disclosed that over 30,000 people have been displaced by the flooding in Derna as of Wednesday.

The extensive damage to infrastructure in the region has rendered some areas inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. Currently, only two of the seven entry points to Derna are operational.

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Emergency Teams Struggle Amidst Devastation and Communication Breakdown in Libya

Emergency teams are diligently sifting through heaps of debris in their quest to locate survivors and retrieve the deceased. Their efforts are guided by the Islamic principle that the deceased should be accorded burial rites within a span of three days.

Libya’s Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Adel Juma, elucidated the establishment of the Martyrs’ Committee, which is tasked with identifying missing individuals and executing procedures for the identification and burial of the deceased in accordance with Sharia and legal regulations.

The extensive devastation caused by Storm Daniel has compounded the already Herculean task faced by rescue teams, who are tirelessly working to clear roads and remove debris in their quest to locate survivors.

The storm’s disruption of communication channels has added to the challenges, hindering rescue operations and intensifying the anxiety experienced by families outside Libya who anxiously await news about their missing loved ones.

Ayah, a Palestinian woman with relatives in Derna, expressed her profound concern as she has been unable to establish contact with her cousins in the afflicted region since the onset of the floods.

“I’m genuinely worried about them. I have two cousins residing in Derna.

It appears that all communication has been severed, and I am uncertain about their current status. The videos emerging from Derna are deeply distressing. We are all in a state of fear,” she shared with CNN.

Libya was plunged into turmoil in 2011 during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, and it has since been torn apart by a devastating civil war.

The extent of the destruction serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of a nation that has long grappled with internal strife and disorder.

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Geopolitical Divisions in Libya Amidst Unprecedented Flood Devastation

In the northwestern region of Libya, the United Nations-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, is headquartered in Tripoli.

In stark contrast, the eastern part of the country is under the control of Commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which lends its support to the eastern-based parliament led by Osama Hamad.

The city of Derna, situated approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles) to the east of Benghazi, is firmly within Haftar’s sphere of influence and falls under the governance of his eastern administration.

Storm Daniel appears to have unleashed one of the most devastating floods ever witnessed in North Africa.

This exceptionally potent low-pressure system initially advanced into the Mediterranean and subsequently intensified into a tropical-like cyclone, eventually making landfall along the Libyan coast.

Notably, Daniel had already inflicted unprecedented flooding in Greece the previous week, although the loss of life there was comparatively lower.

This deadly storm adds to an extraordinary year marked by a series of climate-related disasters and unparalleled weather extremes, ranging from destructive wildfires to sweltering heatwaves.

While numerous cities across the region were affected by the floods, Derna bore the brunt of the catastrophe as two dams gave way, submerging entire neighborhoods beneath the relentless waters.

“Libya was ill-prepared for a disaster of this magnitude,” remarked Osama Aly, a spokesperson for the Emergency and Ambulance service.

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International Rescue Committee Raises Alarm Amidst Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis in Libya

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has sounded the alarm, describing the situation in the country as an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

Ciaran Donelly, the IRC’s Senior Vice President for Crisis Response, stated that the committee is currently conducting a comprehensive joint needs assessment to provide assistance to those impacted by the devastating floods.

Simultaneously, they are making an earnest appeal to the international community for support.

Donelly emphasized the significance of recognizing that Libya is not just a nation grappling with a crisis but also a critical gateway for people seeking refuge in Europe.

He highlighted the IRC’s ongoing efforts since 2016 to offer essential healthcare and protection to vulnerable Libyan citizens, refugees, and migrants who have been deeply affected by the prolonged crisis.

Foreign aid is now flowing into the country in response to this dire situation. Tunisia, Libya’s western neighbor, dispatched a search and rescue team comprising approximately 52 individuals on Wednesday.

This team included four search dogs, three doctors, a diving team, and a water extraction unit, as reported by Tunisia’s state news agency, TAP.

Furthermore, eight Algerian army aircraft carrying humanitarian aid, such as food, medical supplies, clothing, and tents, have begun arriving in Libya, according to Libyan state news agency LANA.

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International Aid Efforts Rally to Support Libya Amidst Devastation

Several European Union member states, including Germany, Romania, and Finland, have offered support in the form of tents, field beds, blankets, 80 generators, food supplies, hospital tents, and water tanks through the bloc’s Civil Protection Mechanism.

The EU has also allocated an initial €500,000 ($540,000) in humanitarian funding following the Libyan authorities’ appeal for international aid.

Turkish aircraft, transporting humanitarian aid, reached Libya on Tuesday, according to Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey’s commitment to sending 168 search and rescue teams along with humanitarian aid to Benghazi, as reported by the state-run news agency Anadoulu Agency.

Italy has dispatched a civil defense team to assist with rescue operations, as confirmed by the country’s Civil Protection Department on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli made an official declaration of humanitarian need, authorizing initial funding from the United States to support relief efforts in Libya.

They are working closely with UN partners and Libyan authorities to determine the most effective way to allocate official U.S. assistance.

Additionally, the President of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed Al Nahyan, has directed the dispatch of aid and search and rescue teams while expressing condolences to those affected by the catastrophe, as reported by the state news agency.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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