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Overwhelmed morgues in Libya as flood death toll tops 6,000

Around 10,000 more people are missing, possibly swept into the sea or buried under the debris that is scattered throughout the city.

Storm Daniel caused the collapse of at least two dams in Libya, sweeping away entire neighborhoods with unprecedented flooding.

(CNN) – Libya rushes to bury their dead as bodies pile up in the streets of Derna, the northern coastal city devastated by floods after a torrential downpour broke two dams, sweeping houses into the sea.

The death toll rose to more than 6,000 people by Wednesday morning local time, according to Saadeddin Abdul Wakil, undersecretary of the health ministry of the Unity Government in Tripoli, one of two rival governments operating in the country.

Morgues are full of hospitals that remain out of service despite the desperate need to treat disaster survivors, according to staff.

About 10,000 more people are missing, possibly swept out to sea or buried under the rubble that is strewn across the city that once housed more than 100,000 people, authorities say.

A damaged vehicle is stuck with debris after flooding caused by Storm Daniel in Derna, Libya on September 12. (Abdullah Mohammed Bonja/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

More than 30,000 people have been displaced by floods in Derna, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya said on Wednesday.

Extensive damage to the region’s infrastructure has made some affected regions inaccessible to humanitarian groups. Only two of the seven entry points to Derna are now available.

Emergency crews search for survivors and bodies amid piles of rubble as officials try to honor Islamic beliefs that the dead should be given burial rites within three days.

“The Martyrs Committee (has been created to) identify the missing persons and implement procedures to identify and bury them in accordance with Sharia and legal laws and standards,” the Libyan state minister told Cabinet Affairs, Adel Juma.

The destruction caused by Storm Daniel has made a mammoth mission even more difficult for rescuers trying to clear roads and debris to find survivors.

The storm cut off communications, thwarting rescue efforts and causing anxiety among family members outside Libya who await news of missing loved ones.

Ayah, a Palestinian woman with cousins ​​in Derna, said she has not been able to contact them since the floods.

“I am very worried about them. I have two cousins ​​who live in Derna. It seems that all communications are down and I don’t know if they are alive at the moment. It is very frightening to see the videos coming out of Derna. We are all terrified,” he said on CNN.

Libya was rocked by the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s government and torn apart by civil war. The scale of the destruction underscores the vulnerability of a country that has struggled with warring factions and chaos for years.

The UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, is based in Tripoli in northwestern Libya, while its eastern rival is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which support the eastern-based parliament. led by Osama Hamad.

Derna, which is about 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi, falls under the control of Haftar and his eastern administration.

Storm Daniel appears to have created one of the deadliest floods on record in North Africa.

The strong low pressure system moved into the Mediterranean before becoming a tropical cyclone and crossing the Libyan coast. Daniel also caused unprecedented flooding in Greece last week, where the death toll was much lower.

Toys are seen in a store damaged by flash floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on September 11. (AFP/Getty Images)

The deadly storm comes in an unprecedented year of climate disasters and record extremes, from devastating wildfires to oppressive heat.

While floods affected several towns in the region, Derna suffered the most damage after two dams collapsed, sweeping entire neighborhoods into the rough sea.

“Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like this,” said Osama Aly, a spokesman for the emergency and ambulance service.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the country was facing “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.

Ciaran Donelly, the IRC’s senior vice president of crisis response, said the committee is conducting a joint needs assessment to support those affected by the floods, while appealing to the international community for help.

“We must remember that Libya is not just a country in crisis; it is also a gateway for people moving to Europe,” he said. “The IRC has been working tirelessly since 2016 to provide essential health care and protection to vulnerable Libyans, refugees and migrants affected by this crisis prolonged”.

Foreign aid is now coming to the country. On Wednesday, Libya’s western neighbor Tunisia sent a search and rescue team of about 52 people. This included four search dogs, three doctors, a diving team and a water extraction contingent, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported.

Eight Algerian army planes carrying humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, clothes and tents also began arriving in Libya on Wednesday, Libyan state news agency LANA said.

European Union member states including Germany, Romania and Finland have offered tents, camp beds and blankets, 80 generators and food, as well as hospital tents and water tanks through the Civil Protection Mechanism of blog

The EU also released an initial 500,000 euros ($540,000) in humanitarian funding, after Libyan authorities appealed for international help.

Turkish planes delivering humanitarian aid arrived in Libya on Tuesday, according to Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country would send 168 search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid to Benghazi, according to state news agency Anadoulu Agency.

Italy is sending a civil protection team to help with rescue operations, the country’s Civil Protection Department said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Tripoli announced that its special envoy, Ambassador Richard Norland, had made an official declaration of humanitarian need.

This “will authorize the initial funding that the United States will provide in support of relief efforts in Libya. We are coordinating with United Nations partners and the Libyan authorities to assess how best to target official US assistance,” posted on X (officially known as Twitter).

The president of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed Al Nahyan, has also ordered the dispatch of aid and search and rescue teams while offering his condolences to those affected by the disaster, the state news agency reported.

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