Ottawa Woman Grapples with Family Loss in Libyan Storm Aftermath


Sagida Elnihum remains seated in the heart of her Ottawa kitchen, her fingers tirelessly tracing the digital screens laden with harrowing visuals of obliteration from Derna, Libya. An unrelenting tempest had launched a savage attack on the port city this Sunday, releasing a torrential downpour, and consequentially causing two dams to rupture and paving the way for complete destruction of several neighbourhoods. As per the account of the Libyan Red Crescent divulged on Thursday, the merciless storm has claimed 11,300 lives and swallowed 10,100 individuals reported as absent.

Sorrow etched across her face, Elnihum sought out a particular aerial footage framing the heart-rending scene of a downtown Mosque enclosed by chunks of mud and ruin. “Once upon a time, my grandmother’s abode stood here,” she disclosed, a sense of mournful nostalgia overflowing in her eyes.

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A dreadful double-digit confirmation recently reached her, fourteen of her kin had perished in the destructive storm while five had vanished mysteriously. Choking back the sobs threatening to break loose, she muttered, “It’s not merely about the advent of death or wrath of flooding…There lies a heap of memories. A home filled with joy, a place where we used to assemble in bliss during Ramadan, shared meals, laughter and games…it’s just tragically gone now.”

She had unpleasant inklings about the whereabouts of her sister and her trio of children. However, a sigh of relief eased from her lips when aid workers discovered the quartet safe in a neighboring town on Thursday. “Oh, how I yearn to listen to her voice again,” Elnihum expressed her longing.

Earlier this week, desperate to get an update from her sister, she dialed her number only to have an unfamiliar voice from the other end. A stranger, who had stumbled upon the phone in the ghastly sight of a mound of lifeless bodies, confessed his lack of knowledge regarding her sister’s location. “Such a horrendous thought gives me shivers down the spine,” admitted Elnihum.

Surveying the haunting visuals of her homeland, she rings up a friend stationed in Derna, looking for any scraps of information regarding the relief activities underway. The disappointing conversation revealed that the rescue operations, as well as the international aid groups, were dismally unequipped and lacked the desirable support. Her voice, translating her friend’s despairing news in Arabic, affirmed that the first respondents were unable to reach the helpless cries echoing from beneath the wreckage, owing to the unavailability of required machinery.

Elnihum, along with her family, sought refuge in Canada in 2014, amid the bloody turmoil of a civil war in Libya. As per the delimiter of the 2021 census, 7,954 Libyan-origin individuals now call Canada home. Plagued by corruption, Libya, the North African Nation, has been struggling since long, even before the formidable dictator Muammar Gaddafi was expelled in 2011.

The United Nations stated that the twin rival governments in Libya were collaboratively organizing relief initiatives for the flood-stricken citizens. However, Elnihum remained skeptical of the country’s leadership, pleading for help from the international community and Canada.