Middle East

Libya floods: Death toll rises to 11,300 in Derna, severely decomposing bodies found in the sea

By Sarah El Sirgany, Sahar Akbarzai, Richard Roth and Heather Chen, CNN

CNN  —  The death toll from devastating flooding in Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna has risen to at least 11,300, according to a UN report released Saturday, even as continuing search efforts are expected to find more victims.

A further 170 people have been killed outside of Derna due to the flooding, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

And in Derna alone, at least 10,100 people remain missing.

“These figures are expected to rise as search-and-rescue crews work tirelessly to find survivors,” it added.

More than 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya since the extreme rainfall brought by Storm Daniel, the UN says.

Experts say the storm’s impact was greatly exacerbated by a lethal confluence of factors including aging, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate warnings and the effects of the accelerating climate crisis.

Derna, the epicenter of the disaster, was split into two after flood waters swept entire neighborhoods.

It had a population of around 100,000 before the tragedy.

At least 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna alone, the UN said.

A car is half burried following floods in Derna, Libya, on September 16.

“With thousands of displaced people now on the move, the risk of exposure to landmines and Explosive Ordnance of War (ERW) leftover from years of conflict is on the rise, as flood waters have now shifted landmines and ERW,” OCHA said.

Almost 300,000 children who were exposed to the flooding due to Storm Daniel face increased risk of cholera, malnutrition, diarrhea, and dehydration. The children also face “increased risks of violence and exploitation,” the report added.

‘Severely decomposing’ bodies in the sea

Rescuers are going through collapsed buildings and searching the sea to retrieve dead bodies as the hope for survivors continues to dwindle.

Most dead bodies are in the water, international rescue missions said, calling for more equipment and help to retrieve corpses from the Mediterranean.

“Bodies are severely decomposing and at one point retrieving them might not be possible,” a representative from the Tunisian mission said in a meeting with counterparts from Russia, Arab countries, Turkey and Italy.

An aerial view of destroyed houses in Derna after a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit Libya, September 16, 2023.

“We need assistance so our intervention is more efficient,” the representative added.

Other mission representatives from Egypt and the UAE described finding bodies in bays and coves in the Mediterranean, many in areas only accessible by boat.

A representative from the Algerian mission said teams spotted around 50 bodies from a cliff around seven nautical miles from the Derna port, but added that the area was only accessible by divers and boats.

“If we get the right boats we can retrieve 100 bodies every day,” the Egyptian representative said.

Dead bodies are also trapped under piles of mud in still occupied residential areas in Derna and could trigger a health crisis if areas are not evacuated, teams warned.

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