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Thousands feared dead as flooding hits Libya

 

Thousands of people are presumed dead after Libya was hit by catastrophic flooding brought on by a strong storm.


The head of the internationally unrecognized east Libyan government said that thousands of people were still missing and that the death toll had surpassed 2,000.


Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya specialist, told the BBC the death toll could reach as many as “several thousand” people.


Storm Daniel made landfall on Sunday, prompting authorities to declare a state of extreme emergency.


Seven Libyan army personnel went missing during ongoing rescue efforts.


Officials in the east imposed a curfew, while schools and shops were ordered to close.


The eastern cities of Benghazi, Sousse, Derna and Al-Marj were all affected.


As well as the rising death toll, the Libyan Red Cross said that at least 150 homes had been destroyed.


The head of the Red Crescent humanitarian network said at least 150 deaths had occurred in Derna alone, according to news agency Reuters.


Two dams in Derna – home to approximately 100,000 people – reportedly collapsed, submerging much of the area and drowning some residents.


Authorities consequently declared the port a “disaster city”.


Eastern Prime Minister Osama Hamad told a Libyan television channel: “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.”


Mr Hamad did not give a source for his figures.


Alongside areas in the east, the western city of Misrata was among those hit by the floods.


Unverified videos of the storm have been circulating online, including a clip showing torrents of floodwater sweeping a man away. Other footage shows drivers trapped on their car roofs.


Alongside schools and shops, four major oil ports closed because of the storm.


While the Benghazi-based administration has been dealing with matters in the east of the country, the rival, internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli, has also been involved.


Its Prime Minister, Abdulhamid Dbeiba, said on Sunday that he had directed all state agencies to “immediately deal” with the damage and floods, while the United Nations in Libya said it was following the storm closely and would “provide urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels”.


Libya has been divided between two rival administrations since 2014, following the killing of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.


Both governments declared three days of mourning after Storm Daniel swept in.


Last week, it struck Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, killing more than a dozen people.


BBC

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