The Libyan Red Crescent on Thursday said the death toll from the flood in Derna, Libya, has reached 11,300 – and may continue to climb, as more than 10,000 people are still missing.
“There are thousands of bodies. They put over 250 people in a grave. There’s no time, and there are concerns about them decomposing,” Red Crescent paramedic Sarraj bin Taher said.
Both Libyan and international officials said the deaths were difficult to count because the city of Derna was so heavily damaged, the security situation in Libya remains perilous, the country has no national government, and many of the dead may have been washed out to sea.
The health minister of the eastern Libyan government, Othman Abduljaleel, told reporters that divers have been deployed to find bodies offshore. Other teams are searching for bodies in the rubble of Derna, having largely given up hope of finding survivors.
“The situation is very large and surprising for the city of Derna. We were not able to confront it with our capabilities that preceded the storm and the torrent,” Mayor Abdel Moneim al-Ghaithi said on Wednesday. The mayor believes the death toll could exceed 20,000 in the end, which would represent almost a fifth of Derna’s population.
NPR wistfully suggested the tragedy might bring both halves of Libya’s divided government together, pointing to $412 million announced for Derna reconstruction by the western government headquartered in Tripoli, even though Derna is controlled by the eastern government of Tobruk. One of the many militia groups based in Tripoli also sent “a convoy with humanitarian aid” to the flooded city.
“Both governments have reached out to the international community requesting services and help,” Tahuid Pasha, a representative of the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM), told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday evening.
“The Government of National Unity has extended its support to us and its request on behalf of the entire country, and they are also coordinating with the government in the east. The challenge now is the international community responding accordingly to the needs and the requests of the governments,” Pasha said. The Government of National Unity (GNU) is the Tripoli-based administration.
“This is a time for unity of purpose. All those affected must receive support without regard for any affiliations. It is important that particular care is taken to ensure protection of groups in vulnerable situations who are rendered even more at risk in the aftermath of such a disaster,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said.
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