Thousands have died in Libya’s floods and thousands more are missing (file)

Derna, Libya:

“I have lost my daughter. Her mother is convinced that she is still alive. I am convinced she is dead,” said Ahmed Ashour, 62. “The girl left me with a three-month-old baby.”

A week after the flood that swept the center of the city of Derna into the sea, families are still coming to terms with the unbearable loss of their dead – and are haunted by the unknown fate of the missing.

Ashour’s eldest sister has also disappeared, as has her daughter.

“Having seen what happened to other people, we can accept everything that happened to us,” she said.

The center of Derna is a wasteland where stray dogs stand listlessly on muddy hills where buildings once stood. Other buildings still stand somehow precariously over lower floors, most of which have been washed away. The legs of a mannequin in dusty pants stick out of the rubble of a destroyed storefront.

A week ago, a storm broke levees over the city, sending a massive torrent into a seasonal riverbed that flows through the center of the city of 120,000.

Thousands are dead and thousands more are missing. Officials using different methods have so far given very different figures on tolls; The mayor estimates that more than 20,000 people were lost. The World Health Organization has confirmed 3,922 deaths.

“Hope of finding survivors is fading, but we will continue our efforts to search for possible survivors,” Othman Abduljaleel, health minister in the government that controls eastern Libya, told Reuters by telephone.

“Now efforts are focused on rescuing people and recovering bodies from among the rubble, especially at sea, with the participation of many divers and specialized rescue teams from different countries.”

Failed state

The roads to Derna were clogged Monday with ambulances and trucks carrying food, water, diapers, mattresses and other supplies.

Western countries and regional states have dispatched rescue teams and mobile hospitals. Five Greek rescue workers, including three members of the armed forces, died in a car accident on Sunday.

Reconstruction efforts have been hampered by chaos in a country that has been a failed state since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Derna is in the east, outside the control of an internationally recognized government in the west, and until 2019 was held by a number of terrorist groups, including affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Residents say the threat to the city from the dams above is widely known and projects to repair the dams have been stalled for more than a decade. They also accuse the authorities of not evacuating the residents in a timely manner.

The biggest threat to survivors could now come from contaminated water supplies.

“The flood crisis has left thousands of people in the Derna region without access to clean and safe drinking water, posing an immediate threat to their health and well-being,” said the charity International Rescue Committee.

“Contaminated water can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases and put vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, at increased risk.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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