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Fears of up to 20,000 dead after catastrophic Libya flood

Libyan prime minister suspends learning for 10 days

The Prime Minister of Libya’s Government of National Unity Abdul Hamid Al-Dabaiba has suspended learning countrywide for 10 days, in a show of solidarity with Libyans affected by the 11 September floods.

Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Unity, which is based in the capital, Tripoli, made the announcement late on Wednesday.

Libya’s two rival governments, the internationally-recognised Government of National Unity led by PM Al-Dabaiba and the eastern Libya government, led by PM Osama Hamad, have both been undertaking response efforts in the flood-afflicted eastern Libya.

The announcement added that the suspension of learning will allow schools to be used as temporary shelters for flood survivors.

Why the damage to Derna was so catastrophic

We have been looking at the factors which made these floods so devastating to the eastern Libyan city of Derna.

More than 5,000 are confirmed dead and that number is expected to rise, after entire neighbourhoods disappeared into the sea as a huge tsunami-like torrent of water swept through while families slept.

A storm sweeping across Libya’s Mediterranean coast dumped 400mm (16 inches) of rain on some areas in less than 24 hours, compared to the 1.5mm the country normally experiences in the whole of September.

This extraordinary deluge of water overwhelmed two key dams on the Wadi Derna river running through the city, destroying several key bridges as well.

Residents of the city, who had been ordered by the local authorities to stay in their homes, reported hearing a loud blast before the city was engulfed in water and said floods reached nearly 3m (10ft) in places.

Rival factions hampering rescue efforts, journalist says

Libya having an internationally recognised government in the west rivalled by another administration in the east – where the flooding has taken place – has hindered rescue efforts, a local journalist has told the BBC.

Abdulkader Assad, political editor of the Libya Observer, explains the country has been split by these factions for a decade.

Libya became divided since the collapse of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, splitting between two rival governments and becoming mired in conflict between different militias.

The Libyan people have not felt the impact of this division fully, he says, because the “presence of two governments was all about vying for power and taking control of the country and parts of the country”.

Quote Message: But now that some of the cities are experiencing this natural disaster, this calamity, we could see that the lack of a unified centralised government is actually affecting the lives of people.”

What happened in Libya

As we report on the latest developments, here is a recap of what happened in Libya:

  • A powerful storm triggered devastating flooding in eastern Libya
  • In Derna, a city of around 100,000 people, two dams collapsed due to heavy rain submerging the area as a huge tsunami-like torrent swept through
  • Whole families were washed away and entire neighbourhoods disappeared
  • Tens of thousands of people have been displaced
  • The flooding was trigged by Storm Daniel which hit the north African nation on Sunday and brought heavy rain
  • Libyan rescue teams are now being helped by international crews in the Derna area
  • The African country’s rival governments have requested international aid and are liaising with each other

As many as 20,000 people are feared to have died in floods in Libya, according to a local official.

Catastrophic floods deluged the east of the country on Sunday.

The mayor of port city Derna told Saudi TV News station Al Arabiya he estimated 18,000 to 20,000 died when two dams burst, releasing a tsunami of water as people slept.

His figures are based on the number of communities destroyed by the flood water, he told the channel.

Unrecovered bodies remain under rubble or in the sea, increasing the risk of disease.

Meanwhile, rival governments in Libya have requested international aid.

Stay with us as our team brings you the latest updates and reaction to this crisis.


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