The death toll from devastating flooding in eastern Libya is expected to rise as more bodies are being retrieved in the city of Derna.
At least 5,200 people have died and 10,000 more have been reported missing in the disaster, authorities said on 12 September.
Photos shared in media reports on 13 September showed bodies being placed into mass graves as rescue teams waded through chest-deep water to inspect submerged vehicles.
Corpses are lying in the streets and being washed ashore by the current, while safe drinking water is in short supply, according to reports.
The United Nations has described the flooding as a “calamity of epic proportions,” estimating that up to 1.8 million people may be affected.
Islamic Relief is calling for donations to help us provide emergency food and shelter to those affected.
‘It’s like doomsday’
Floodwaters swept through Derna on 10 September after Storm Daniel destroyed 2 dams in the area. Entire neighbourhoods were submerged, with people, cars and bridges being swept out to sea.
Eyewitnesses reported that vast parts of Derna were completely destroyed, with many of the multi-storey buildings on the riverbanks collapsing and the city’s hospitals unable to cope with the fallout from the disaster.
Benghazi, Soussa and Al-Marj cities have also been affected. Many people have lost their homes in the area, which already hosted more than 46,000 internally displaced people.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Islamic Relief’s Salah Aboulgasem said he expects the death toll “to double, if not quadruple.
“Complete families have been wiped out… Some of these buildings were completely taken away by the water,” he told the broadcaster.
“The best way of describing it is like a mini tsunami completely washing away everything in its path. People are saying in Arabic it’s like doomsday. That’s the best way to describe it.”
Aid trickles in
Political turmoil has hampered development over the last decade in Libya, which is split between 2 rival governments. Amid concerns the divide may complicate the response to the disaster, there have been some signs of cooperation in its immediate aftermath.
On 12 September, the UN-recognised government in Tripoli sent a plane carrying 14 tonnes of supplies, medication, equipment and body bags, along with 87 medical staff, to Benghazi. Benghazi, along with Derna, is administered by the government in the east.
Several countries have pledged to send aid, with support beginning to arrive on 13 September. Libyan authorities have called for 3 types of specialised search groups to recover bodies from valleys, under rubble and the sea.
Islamic Relief’s response
Islamic Relief has launched an appeal to assist disaster-stricken families in Libya. We will be working with local partners on the ground to deliver food, blankets, mattresses and other essential items. We have committed an initial £100,000 to provide this emergency aid.
A disaster response team has been deployed to Libya to assess how we can further support communities affected by this catastrophic flooding.