Libya floods wipe out quarter of city, thousands dead

Over 5,000 are said to be dead and at least 10,000 missing; buildings and homes in coastal city of Derna are gone - 'Bodies are lying everywhere'

Thousands of people have been killed and at least 10,000 were missing in Libya in floods caused by a huge Mediterranean storm that burst dams, swept away buildings and wiped out as much as a quarter of the eastern coastal city of Derna.
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A senior medic in Derna told Reuters that more than 2,000 people were dead, while eastern Libya officials cited by local television were estimating a toll above 5,000.
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לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
Thousands are dead in the Libyan city of Derna
(Photo: REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)
Storm Daniel barreled across the Mediterranean Sea into a country divided and crumbling after more than a decade of conflict.
In Derna, a city of around 125,000 inhabitants, Reuters journalists saw wrecked neighborhoods, their buildings washed out and cars flipped on their roofs in streets covered in mud and rubble left by a wide torrent in the wake of burst dams.
Mohamad al-Qabisi, director of the Wahda Hospital, said 1,700 people had died in one of the city's two districts and 500 had died in the other.
Bodies are laid out on the ground in hospital corridors. As more bodies are brought to the hospital, people look at them, trying to identify missing family members.
"Bodies are lying everywhere - in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings," Hichem Abu Chkiouat, minister of civil aviation in the administration that controls the east, told Reuters after visiting the city. "I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed."
The local al-Masar television said the eastern administration's interior minister had said more than 5,000 people died.
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לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
Flood damage in the Libyan city of Derna
(Photo: AFP)
Other eastern cities, including Libya's second biggest city, Benghazi, were also hit by the storm. Tamer Ramadan, head of a delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the death toll would be "huge."
"We can confirm from our independent sources of information that the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 so far," he told reporters via video link.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said emergency response teams had been mobilized to help on the ground.
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לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
לוב אלפי הרוגים בשיטפונות דרנה
At least a quarter of the city of Derna has been washed away by flooding
(Photo: AP Photo/Jamal Alkomaty)
As Turkey and other countries rushed aid to Libya, including search and rescue vehicles, rescue boats, generators and food, distraught Derna citizens rushed home in search of loved ones.
In Derna, Mostafa Salem, 39, said he had lost 30 of his relatives. "Most people were sleeping. Nobody was ready," Salem told Reuters.
Raja Sassi, 39, survived the flood with his wife and small daughter after water had reached an upper floor, but the rest of his family had died, he said.
"At first we just thought it was heavy rain but at midnight we heard a huge explosion and it was the dam bursting," he said.
Libya is politically split between east and west and public services have fallen apart since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that prompted years of factional conflict.
The internationally recognized government in Tripoli does not control eastern areas but has dispatched aid to Derna, with at least one relief flight leaving from the western city of Misrata on Tuesday, a Reuters journalist on the plane said.
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