Collapsed multi-story buildings, scattered car wrecks and the bodies of many people under the rubble – this is what many areas of the Libyan city of Derna look like after a sudden and powerful flood. More than 11,000 people died. A rescue team from Malta found hundreds more bodies on the beach on Friday. Most people are buried in mass graves.
Devastating flooding in Derna, one of the main cities in eastern Libya, occurred on Sunday after heavy rains caused two dams to collapse, releasing massive masses of flood water downstream. The water swept almost everything in its path into the sea. A quarter of this coastal city was destroyed. According to the Libyan Red Crescent, the death toll is over 11,000, and almost the same number are missing.
Bodies fished out of the sea and found on beaches
A search and rescue team from Malta found hundreds of washed-up bodies on the beach on Friday, the Maltese Department of Civil Protection said on Saturday. As Natalino Bezzina, who heads the Maltese team, told the Times of Malta, “there were probably about 400 of them.”
According to Bezzina, seven bodies were initially found, including those of three children, in a partially submerged cave. As the search continued, they came across a small bay filled with debris and the bodies of several hundred people.
Malta sent 72 rescue workers to flood-affected areas in the North African country on Wednesday.
Earlier, Kamal Al-Siwi, a local official for missing persons, said that “over 450 bodies and the bodies of 10 people were pulled from the sea over the last three days from the rubble of destroyed buildings.”
“This operation takes months and years.”
– There are many bodies underwater. We plan to use heavy equipment to build breakwaters because we found bodies among the stones, some of them mixed with trees, rubble and dust, Al-Siwi said. He added that in his opinion “this operation will take months and years.”
According to the United Nations, over a thousand people were buried in mass graves. Experts warn that this could lead to an epidemic and traumatize local residents.
“Everyone has lost someone”
– Everyone lost someone. I saw bodies every day. (…) Sixteen-year-olds, fifteen-year-olds who helped. (…) People who are not even adults, just carrying hundreds of corpses. They saw things that would change them forever and it would accompany them for the rest of their lives, Awad Alshalwy, an English teacher from Derna, who helped bury the dead from the first days after the flood, told journalists.
– We had to bury people. We buried 25 people without knowing who they were or taking any samples. And the families of these people will never know what happened to their children, sons, daughters and wives, he said. – There weren’t enough people to bury. There are no forensic doctors. Most people are buried in mass graves, he reported.
Saudi Arabia announced the departure of the first aid plane. Italy provided equipment for cleaning up after the disastrous flood, as well as supplies such as tents and blankets, the Italian embassy in Libya said.
Humanitarian aid is reaching Libya, but access to the disaster area remains very difficult due to the destruction of roads and bridges, as well as water damage to power and telephone lines in large areas. At least 30,000 people are homeless.
Reuters, PAP, tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/Mohamed Shalash