In Libya, Derna fears a very heavy toll after devastating floods | TV5MONDE

In Libya, Derna fears a very heavy toll after devastating floods | TV5MONDE

The city of Derna, in eastern Libya, counted its deaths in the thousands on Wednesday, and fears a very heavy toll, after two dams gave way under the pressure of torrential rains, releasing powerful floods which swept away everything in their path.

Given the difficult access to this town of 100,000 inhabitants, uncertainties remain over the number of victims of the disaster which could have left several thousand dead and missing, according to the authorities.

Cut roads, landslides and floods prevented relief from reaching the population who had to manage by rudimentary means to recover bodies buried by the dozens in mass graves, according to images posted on social networks.

Derna and other towns are virtually cut off from the rest of the world despite authorities’ efforts to restore mobile phone and internet networks.

The authorities in the east or their rivals in the west speak of “thousands” of deaths.

Osama Ali, spokesperson for the Libyan “Rescue and Emergency Service” under the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, told AFP on Tuesday that the floods had left “more than 2,300 dead” and around 7,000 injured in Derna. , while more than 5,000 people are missing.

An official from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported an “enormous” number of deaths which could number in the thousands, with 10,000 missing.

Since the great earthquake which shook the town of al-Marj (east) in 1963, it is the worst natural disaster experienced by Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya.

On Sunday afternoon, Storm Daniel reached the eastern coast of Libya, hitting the metropolis of Benghazi before heading east towards cities in Jabal al-Akhdar (north-east), such as Shahat (Cyrene). , al-Marj, al-Bayda and Soussa (Apollonia) but especially Derna, the most devastated city.

During the night from Sunday to Monday, the two dams on Wadi Derna, which retain the waters of the wadi which crosses the city, failed.

Witnesses told Libyan media that they heard a “huge explosion” before powerful torrents reached the city, overflowing the banks, sweeping away bridges and entire neighborhoods with their inhabitants towards the Mediterranean.

Drop-by-drop relief

Bodies began on Tuesday to be washed up by the sea which turned the color of mud. In images published Tuesday by Libyan media, a military helicopter can be seen recovering bodies from the beach littered with debris and pieces of iron.

In the country and abroad, there is strong mobilization to help the victims, even if help is still arriving in trickles.

Aid convoys from Tripolitania in the west are on their way to Derna. The Tripoli government, led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, announced the dispatch of two ambulance planes and a helicopter, 87 doctors, a team of rescuers and dog searchers as well as technicians from the National Emergency Company. electricity to try to quickly restore the power that has been cut.

Rescue teams sent by Turkey and the United Arab Emirates also arrived in eastern Libya, according to authorities.

Algeria announced the sending of “significant humanitarian aid” consisting of food and medical products, tents and clothing, aboard eight military planes.

Egypt, for its part, said it had sent three aid planes as well as search and rescue teams.

Qatar said a first plane was expected to arrive Tuesday evening in Benghazi with a field hospital on board as well as medical and food aid.

France announced the deployment of a field hospital to help the affected populations, while the United States decided to send “emergency funds to relief organizations” and plans coordination with the Libyan authorities. and the UN to provide additional support.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, indicated that his country was ready “to provide the necessary assistance”.

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