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Libya floods: Entire neighbourhoods dragged into the sea

Rescue teams in Libya are struggling to retrieve the bodies of victims that have been swept out to sea in tsunami-like flood waters.

At least 2,300 have been killed, according to the ambulance authority in Derna, the worst affected city.

Two dams and four bridges collapsed in Derna, submerging much of the city when Storm Daniel hit on Sunday.

About 10,000 people are reported missing, the Red Crescent says, and the death toll is expected to rise further.

Some aid has started to arrive, including from Egypt, but rescue efforts have been hampered by the political situation in Libya, with the country split between two rival governments.

The US, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or are ready to send aid.

Video footage recorded after dark on Sunday shows a river of floodwater churning through the city with cars bobbing helplessly in the current.

There are harrowing stories of people being swept out to sea, while others clung onto rooftops to survive.

“I was shocked by what I saw, it’s like a tsunami,” Hisham Chkiouat, from Libya’s eastern-based government, said.

He told BBC Newshour that the collapse of one of the dams to the south of Derna had dragged large parts of the city into the sea.

“A massive neighbourhood has been destroyed – there is a large number of victims, which is increasing each hour.”

Derna was badly flooded by heavy rain and burst dams

Drag button to see extent of flooding

Libya has been in political chaos since long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011 – leaving the oil-rich nation effectively split with an interim, internationally recognised government operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another one in the east.

Libyan journalist Abdulkader Assad said the confusion around this was hampering rescue efforts.

“You have people who are pledging help but the help is not coming,” he told the BBC. “There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years was about war.”

But despite the split, the government in Tripoli has sent a plane with 14 tonnes of medical supplies, body bags and more than 80 doctors and paramedics.

Brian Lander, the deputy director of emergencies at the UN’s World Food Programme, said the organisation had food supplies for 5,000 families.

Derna, about 250km east of Benghazi along the coast, is surrounded by the nearby hills of the fertile Jabal Akhdar region.

The city was once where militants from the Islamic State group built a presence in Libya, after Gaddafi’s fall. They were driven out some years later by the Libyan National Army (LNA), forces loyal to Gen Khalifa Haftar who is allied to the eastern administration.

The powerful general said eastern officials are currently assessing damage caused by the floods so roads can be reconstructed and electricity restored to help rescue efforts.

Libya’s leading Al-Wasat news website has suggested that failures to properly rebuild and maintain infrastructure in Derna after years of conflict is partly to blame for the high death toll.

“The security chaos and Libyan authorities’ laxity in carrying out close monitoring of safety measures [of the dams] led to the catastrophe,” it quoted economic expert Mohammed Ahmed as saying.


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