Deadly Storm Daniel Engulfs Eastern Libya: Thousands Feared Dead or Missing


Unleashing a scene of devastation and havoc, Storm Daniel swept across the Mediterranean and into eastern Libya, leaving behind a shattered landscape. The destruction amplified by subsequent floods has left a death toll swelling from hundreds into thousands, according to high-ranking officials who voiced their concerns on Monday.

The death count in Derna, monitored and examined by the Red Crescent, is feared to hit the 250 mark, as shared by the group’s local head. Yet, a drastically higher figure of over 2,000 was offered by Osama Hamad, the leader of Libya’s eastern government, who also warned of thousands reported missing in Derna, a city cradled by the coast.

However, Hamad did not disclose any sources substantiating these figures. In the present geopolitical maelstrom of Libya, veering between rival administrations in the east and west, and public services that have fallen into disrepair post the 2011 Nato-backed revolt, affirming these numbers remains challenging.

The catastrophic situation was set into motion when dams shielded above Derna gave way, ensuing in the indiscriminate displacement of entire communities into the ocean, explained Ahmed Mismari, the Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesperson. The LNA, presently at the helm of eastern Libya, estimated the toll of missing persons to range between 5,000 to 6,000.

Last Sunday, the tempest arriving from the Mediterranean devastated roads, decimated buildings in Derna, and unleashed its fury on towns dotting the coastline, all the way to Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

On-the-scene digital footage and images telecasted by eastern Libya’s Almostkbal TV emphasised the dire magnitude of the event, featuring fleets of inhabitants trapped atop their vehicles, echoing for help as powerful waters swept away their cars.

Hamad gravely conveyed to the al-Masar TV, “The missing are in the thousands, and the dead exceed 2,000. Entire neighbourhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents swept away by water.” He leads an unrecognized government operating in the eastern Eibya demarcated territories under Khalifa Haftar’s LNA. Among those missing are seven members identified by the LNA.

The horrifying scale of human loss is reflected in the acknowledgment of at least 150 deaths in Derna, following building collapses. The Red Crescent’s Kais Fhakeri anticipates the toll to surge to around 250, highlighting the stark devastation.

Local residents shared their harrowing experiences, narrating how they awoke to find their homes engulfed by rising waters. Pictures of a subsided road between Sousse and Shahat, home to the Greek-originating Unesco-listed archaeological site Cyrene, were shared on Almostkbal TV.

Witness reports revealed an alarming three-meter rise in water levels within Derna. In honor of the tragedy, Libya’s eastern-based parliament declared three days of mourning, echoed by Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, prime minister of the interim government in Tripoli, who bestowed the designation of “disaster areas” on the affected cities, professing an identical period of mourning.

The relentless storm prompted the closure of four significant Libyan oil ports, Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Es Sidra, for a three-day duration, as reported by two oil engineers.

Large-scale efforts were initiated, to include search and rescue operations, with an extreme emergency state being declared, effecting a curfew and the closure of schools and shops.

Despite his administration’s limited clout in eastern Libya, Prime Minister Dbeibah has urged all state agencies to promply address the fallout from the storm and ensuing floods. His government has been recognised by the Central Bank of Libya.

Aid efforts are also being extended by the United Nations in Libya and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, focussing on urgent relief assistance, response efforts, and additional help to the stricken region.


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