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Libya: Over 2,000 'feared dead' in devastating Storm Daniel floods

Curfews have been imposed and a state of emergency declared after waters sweep homes and people away
A view of destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in Derna (AFP/The Press Office of Libyan Prime Minister - Benghazi)
Destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in Derna (AFP/Press Office of Libyan Prime Minister - Benghazi)

Entire neighbourhoods in eastern Libya were submerged under water after Storm Daniel swept through the country on Monday, causing massive mudslides and collapsed buildings, with local officials saying as many as 2,000 people could be dead. 

Speaking on the Libyan network Almasar, Osama Hamad, prime minister of Libya's eastern-based government, reported "more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing" in the city of Derna alone, but no medical sources or emergency services have confirmed such figures.

A spokesman for the country’s armed forces based in the east said the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000 and that between 5,000 and 6,000 were reported missing, saying that the collapse of two nearby dams had caused the casualties. 

Separate tolls reported from various areas add up to far lower figures.

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".

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"This is besides the massive material damage that struck public and private properties," he told AFP.

Footage released on social media showed people stranded on the roofs of their vehicles, as authorities declared a state of extreme emergency, shuttering shops and schools and imposing a curfew.

Local media said residents in Derna had no access to electricity or communications on Monday, and that search and rescue operations were ongoing.

A Derna city council official described the situation in the city as "catastrophic" and in need of "national and international intervention", speaking to the local TV channel Libya al-Ahrar.

The UN said it would be providing "urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels".

A spokesperson for the Libyan National Army, a collection of armed groups led by the dominant figure in eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar, said seven of its members were missing after the floods.

Hamad said the city of Derna had been declared a disaster zone.

He added that there would be three days of mourning, with flags across the country lowered to half-mast.

Libya is divided between a UN-recognised government in Tripoli and an administration in the east affiliated with Haftar.

On Monday, the president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, said his country would send humanitarian aid and search-and-rescue teams to eastern Libya. The UAE is one of Haftar's main backers. 

Meanwhile, Turkey, which backs Libya's Tripoli-based government in the west, also sent condolences. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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