Libya floods: Families wait for bodies of loved ones as 10,000 remain missing

More than 11,000 people have died in Derna alone after a torrent of water destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

A week on from devastating storms hitting parts of Libya, Emma Murphy reports from Derna.

Rescuers in Derna have detailed the difficult operation of retrieving bodies as thousands were swept out to sea when floods devastated parts of eastern Libya.

More than 11,000 people have died in Derna alone, after two dams burst on the outskirts of the city, sending a torrent of water which destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

The death toll is projected to be significantly higher, and many are still waiting for the confirmation their loved ones are dead as efforts persist to find bodies under the rubble.

“One day, I received 80 bodies, another day I received 60,” Rajab Tarhouni, of the body recovery team, told ITV News.

“The last bag I received, four men and a child’s body.”

Around 10,000 people of Derna’s 90,000 population still remain missing.

Rescuers and relatives search for the bodies of flood victims in Derna. / Credit: AP

Abdullah Jaffar has been waiting outside an apartment block on the news of his neighbours and six members of his family.

“I lost my brother, his wife, my niece, my nephew, my other brother’s son, my sister’s son, my sister’s daughter, and my other sister-in-law,” he said.

Authorities have now begun to vaccinate people against waterborne diseases as concerns grow that the flood-hit city’s drinking water is not safe to consume.

As of Saturday, at least 150 people have suffered from diarrhoea after drinking what is thought to be contaminated water in Derna, according to the head of Libya’s centre for combating diseases.

Residents are now being urged to only drink bottled water, which is being shipped in as part of relief efforts.

Rescue teams have been working to recover as many bodies as possible, but hope is diminishing. / Credit: AP

Othman Abduljaleel, eastern Libya’s health minister, said the vaccine rollout would start on Sunday and focus on recovery and health workers as well as children.

He said: “There are three target groups. The first category is the exhumation teams, the second category is the health sector worker, who are also exposed to all sources that may cause them health issues.

“The third category is the children, especially in the age group from one to 15 years.”

The bodies of five rescue workers from Greece have been flown back to Athens after a bus in which three military personnel and two civilians crashed en route to Derna.

Greece’s armed forces declared three days of national mourning.

The flooding was triggered by Mediterranean Storm Daniel.

Authorities have now opened an investigation into the collapse of the two dams, although analysts have questioned how such a probe will be able to take place.

Experts had long said that floods posed a significant danger to the two dams meant to protect the people of Derna.

Libya has endured more than a decade of chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011.

The north African country now remains divided between two rival administrations – one in the east and one in the west, each backed by different militias and foreign governments.

Rescue efforts, meanwhile, are continuing to progress with search teams working around the clock to find survivors.

Libya’s western government has allocated the equivalent of $412m (£353m) for the reconstruction of Derna and other towns affected by the flooding.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in