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Flood death toll in Libya’s Derna city could reach 20,000

The estimated number of deaths in the Libyan city of Derna after a catastrophic flood could reach 18,000 to 20,000, Derna’s mayor has told Al Arabiya TV.

Abdulmenam al Ghaithi told the Saudi-owned television late on Wednesday the estimated number of deaths in the city could reach 18,000 to 20,000 based on the number of districts destroyed by the flood.

It comes as Libya continues to reel from a massive flood that left nearly 4,000 dead and thousands more missing, wreaking havoc in the eastern city of Derna, where bodies wrapped in blankets lined the ravaged streets.

Relief missions gathered pace with Türkiye, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates among the first nations to rush aid to the war-scarred country after the disaster that also displaced tens of thousands.

The Mediterranean coastal city of Derna was hit by a huge flash flood late on Sunday that witnesses likened to a tsunami after two upstream dams burst when torrential rains brought by Storm Daniel battered the region.

Footage broadcast by state media showed an apocalyptic landscape in the city, with debris littering streets and people lifting sheets off bodies lying on sidewalks to try to identify them.

Satellite images of Derna after the surge of water showed coastal neighbourhoods almost entirely submerged.

The United Nations has pledged $10 million in support for survivors, including at least 30,000 people it said had been left homeless in Derna.

The wall of water ripped away buildings, vehicles and the people inside them. Many were swept out into the sea, with bodies later washing up on beaches littered with debris and car wrecks.

Flooding amid heating planet and war

Traumatised survivors have dug through the mud-caked ruins of shattered buildings to recover bodies, scores of which were lying out in the open before being buried in mass graves.

The confirmed death toll reached 3,840 by Wednesday afternoon, said Lieutenant Tarek al Kharraz, spokesman for the eastern-based government’s Interior Ministry.

The figure includes 3,190 victims who have already been buried and at least 400 foreigners, mostly from Sudan and Egypt, Kharraz told the AFP news agency, adding 2,400 people were still missing.

Some media reports have quoted officials giving higher tolls.

Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Tuesday “the death toll is huge” and is likely to grow.

He added the organisation had independent sources saying that “the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far”.

Oil-rich Libya is still recovering from the war and chaos that followed an uprising which toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The country has been left divided between two rival administrations — the UN-brokered, internationally recognised administration based in Tripoli, and a separate administration in the disaster-hit east.

Rescue teams from Türkiye have arrived in eastern Libya, authorities said. Algeria, France, Italy, Qatar and Tunisia also pledged to help.

The UAE sent two planes carrying 150 tonnes of aid.

The European Union said assistance from Germany, Romania and Finland had been dispatched.

A Kuwaiti flight took off Wednesday with 40 tonnes of supplies, the IFRC said.

Palestinian media reported a rescue mission had left from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, and Jordan sent a military plane loaded with food parcels, tents, blankets and mattresses.

Climate experts have linked Libya’s disaster to a combination of the impacts of a heating planet and the country’s years of political chaos and underinvestment in infrastructure.

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