Officials stated Monday that at least 150 people were killed when unusual floods slammed eastern Libya after storm Daniel ravaged the Mediterranean, slamming Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece.
Residents of the Libyan disaster area captured images of large mudslides, collapsed buildings, and entire neighborhoods buried beneath muddy water.
On the Libyan network Almasar, Prime Minister Oussama Hamad of the east-based administration declared “more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing” in the city of Derna alone, but no medical sources or emergency services have corroborated such figures.
While media outlets in eastern Libya have mainly followed up on Hamad’s comments, individual tolls from other places add up to significantly lower estimates.
Mohamed Massoud, a spokesman for Hamad’s Benghazi-based administration, said earlier that “at least 150 people were killed as a result of flooding and torrential rains left by storm Daniel in Derna, Jabal al-Akhdar region and the suburbs of Al-Marj”.
“This is besides the massive material damage that struck public and private properties,” he told AFP.
Hundreds of residents were still believed to be trapped in difficult-to-reach areas as rescuers, backed by the army, were trying to come to their aid.
East Libyan authorities had “lost contact with nine soldiers during rescue operations”, Massoud said.
He stated that Hamad, the head of a rescue committee, and other ministers had traveled to Derna to assess the extent of the devastation.
Storm Daniel, which killed at least 27 people in Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria in recent days, was described by experts as “extreme in terms of the amount of water falling in a 24 hour period.”
Hamad’s government, which in war-torn Libya competes with a UN-brokered, internationally recognized transitional administration in Tripoli, designated Derna a “disaster area” on Monday.
Libya’s western administration, led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, declared three days of national mourning and emphasized “the unity of all Libyans” in the face of the calamity during an unusual ministerial meeting broadcast live on television.
The National Petroleum Company, which has its main oilfields and ports in eastern Libya, announced “a state of maximum alert” and banned flights between production sites where activity was severely restricted.
Speaking to the local TV channel Libya al-Ahrar, a Derna municipal council official described the city’s position as “catastrophic” and in need of “national and international intervention.”
He claimed the collapse of four major bridges, two buildings, and two dams in Derna, a 100,000-person city located in a river wadi 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of Tripoli.
A large flood washed across the city, devastating structures in its path, according to footage carried by media agencies.
In a Facebook post, Presidential Council Chief Mohamed al-Manfi requested “assistance from brotherly and friendly countries and international organizations.”
Manfi proclaimed Derna, Shahat, and Al-Bayda a “disaster zone” in writing.
The storm reached eastern Libya on Sunday afternoon, wreaking havoc on the coastal town of Jabal al-Akhdar as well as Benghazi, where a curfew was imposed and schools were suspended for several days.
On Monday, the UN mission in Libya announced on X, formerly Twitter, that it was “closely following the emergency caused by severe weather conditions in the country’s eastern region.”
It expressed regret for the deaths and stated that it was “prepared to support efforts by local authorities and municipalities to respond to this emergency and provide urgent humanitarian assistance.”
More Rain Expected
Libya, sitting on Africa’s largest-known oil reserves, was plunged into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed former dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Two rival governments based in the west and east have been vying for power, with deadly conflict occasionally erupting.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “solidarity with the Libyan people” and said the country was mobilising resources to provide emergency aid.
US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller offered “sympathies and condolences” to those affected by the floods, and said Washington was working with the UN and Libyan authorities to help relief efforts.
Authorities in Egypt issued a warning for caution on the country’s northern shore, which borders eastern Libya, and declared that preparations for storm Daniel had begun.
Forecasters predict further severe rain in the area in the following days.
As the earth heats, more water vapour enters the atmosphere, increasing the likelihood of heavy precipitation in some places of the world.
These increasingly severe rainfall events contribute to floods when combined with other variables such as urbanization and land-use planning.