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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Dozens of Syrians are among the many lacking in catastrophic floods in Libya, a conflict monitor says

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BEIRUT — A Syrian dentist, a confectioner who made mouthwatering Arabic sweets, a carpenter.

Syrians from all walks of life had left their war-torn nation for the Libyan metropolis of Derna over the previous years, searching for work and higher alternatives.

Now, dozens of them are lacking and feared {dead} after Mediterranean storm Daniel unleashed catastrophic flooding that tore via the coastal metropolis on Sunday evening, wreaking destruction and washing complete neighborhoods out to sea.

The dying toll has eclipsed 11,000, and greater than 10,000 are lacking. 5 days on, searchers are nonetheless digging via mud and hollowed-out buildings in Derna, searching for our bodies.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a conflict monitoring group, says that 42 Syrians have been confirmed {dead} in Libya whereas the actual quantity might be as excessive as 150.

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The victims embrace each Syrians who have been residing and dealing in Libya long run, and Syrian migrants who have been utilizing Libya as a transit level in efforts to succeed in Europe, most frequently by means of perilous voyages throughout the Mediterranean Sea, in unsafe boats organized by smugglers.

Two years in the past, Nisma Jbawi’s 19-year-old son Ammar Kanaan left their residence in Syria’s southern province of Daraa — one of many epicenters of the 2011 rebellion in opposition to the federal government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He headed to Libya, the place he deliberate to work and get monetary savings to pay Syrian authorities a payment of about $8,000 that will spare him from obligatory navy service.

Jbawi mentioned that her son final spoke together with her on Sunday afternoon. He advised her he would shut the candy store the place he labored and go residence as a result of a powerful storm was anticipated. She tried repeatedly to name him on Monday, with out success. His WhatsApp account exhibits his telephone was final on-line at round 1:30 a.m. on Monday.

“We nonetheless have hope,” she mentioned, tears choking her up.

Because the storm pounded Derna late Sunday, residents mentioned they heard loud explosions when the dams outdoors the town collapsed. Floodwaters washed down Wadi Derna, a river working from the mountains via the town and into the ocean.

On Tuesday, Kanaan’s uncle drove to Derna from the japanese Libyan metropolis of Benghazi the place he works — solely to search out that the constructing the place his nephew lived had been washed out to sea.

“All who have been inside are presumed {dead},” Jbawi mentioned.

Rami Abdurrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, mentioned he hasn’t been in a position to affirm a single survivor out of the 150 Syrians lacking in Derna since Sunday evening. However particular numbers are arduous to return by within the chaotic aftermath of the destruction.

Like Syria, the place the civil conflict has killed a half-million folks and compelled greater than 5 million others to change into refugees all over the world, Libya has been via its personal years of battle.

The oil-rich North African nation has been break up between rival governments within the east and west since 2014, backed by with numerous militia forces and worldwide patrons. Derna is ruled by Libya’s japanese administration, the place navy commander Khalifa Hiftar wields important energy.

Nonetheless, for some Syrians, Libya supplied prospects of a greater life. Syrians can simply get into Libya on a vacationer visa and discover work — wages are larger than what many earn at residence.

Zeid Marabeh, 19, got here to Libya two years in the past from the central metropolis of Homs and labored as a carpenter.

He recounted to The Related Press over the telephone from Derna how he watched water surging towards his constructing on Sunday evening.

“Then I heard a loud growth,” Marabeh mentioned. It was the second the dams collapsed.

When water ranges began rising in his neighborhood, he frantically ran towards larger floor — the close by Jap Shiha hill. From there, he noticed the water destroy virtually all the pieces in its path.

He went again on Monday morning, after the waters subsided, to examine on his uncle and kinfolk. The constructing the place they lived had disappeared. His uncle, Abdul-Ilah Marabeh, his aunt Zeinab and their 1-year-old daughter Shahd have been gone, he mentioned.

Marabeh mentioned he seemed via the rows of our bodies laid out on their road, however could not discover his uncle’s household.

In Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday, members of the Qalaaji household have been receiving condolences for his or her eight members of the family killed in Derna.

Firas Qalaji, 45, his spouse Rana Khateeb and their six kids have been to be buried in Libya, the household mentioned in an announcement. Mohammed Khier Qalaji mentioned in Damascus on Saturday that his brother, a automobile mechanic, had been residing in Libya since 2000.

He added that he has one other brother, Shadi, in Derna, who survived the floods regardless of swallowing massive quantities of water. He mentioned Shadi was solely capable of finding the our bodies of his brother and one in all his nieces — the our bodies of the remainder have been nonetheless lacking.

He mentioned three hours earlier than the storm, Firas and his household had a video name along with his mom and sisters in Damascus and so they began reciting verses from the Muslim holy guide, the Quran. “Forgive me mom,” he quoted his brother as telling their mom.

“It was as if he felt one thing was about to occur,” Mohammed Kheir Qalaji mentioned.

Ghina al-Qassim mentioned that her nephew, Hani Turkomani, was a dentist who arrived in Derna some 9 months in the past “to enhance his life.” His cousins, already there, had discovered him a job.

After the floodwaters subsided, the cousins, who survived the tragedy, went searching for him. They mentioned that his condo was filled with water and dust, however a big gap within the wall raised their hopes that he may need escaped from the constructing or been pulled out by rescue staff, al-Qassim mentioned.

“God prepared,” she added.


Omar Sanadiki contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.

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