AT LEAST 2,000 people have died and thousands more are missing after catastrophic flooding in Libya.
A major dam collapse sent a 10-foot-deep river pouring through the eastern city of Derna, where “entire neighborhoods” were swept into the sea.
After the devastating earthquake in Morocco, it was the second major disaster to hit North Africa in three days.
Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls eastern Libya, put the number of missing people at between 5,000 and 6,000
He said in a televised news conference that the disaster happened after dams above Derna collapsed, “washing entire neighborhoods and their residents into the sea.”
Osama Hamad, the head of a parallel government based in the east, told local television that more than 2,000 people had died and thousands more were missing.
The numbers are still estimates as they have not yet been confirmed. Reuters Reports.
Libya is politically divided between east and west and public services have collapsed since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that sparked years of conflict.
The internationally recognized government in Tripoli does not control the eastern areas.
In Tripoli, the three-member Presidential Council, which serves as the divided country’s head of state, asked the international community for help.
“We call on brotherly and friendly countries and international organizations to provide assistance,” it said.
After hitting Greece last week, Storm Daniel swept across the Mediterranean on Sunday, flooding streets and destroying buildings in Derna and hitting other settlements along the coast, including Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi.
Videos from Derna showed a wide torrent flowing through the city center where a much narrower waterway had previously flowed.
The ruins of collapsed buildings stood on both sides.
The Almostkbal television station in eastern Libya showed footage showing people stuck on the roofs of their vehicles screaming for help and water washing away cars.
“The number of missing people is in the thousands and the death toll exceeds 2,000,” Osama Hamad told al-Masar TV.
“Whole neighborhoods in Derna have disappeared and their residents have been washed away by the water.”
Derna resident Saleh al-Obaidi said he managed to escape with his family despite houses collapsing in a valley near the town.
“People were sleeping and waking up to find their homes surrounded by water,” he told Reuters.
Ahmed Mohamed, another resident, said: “We were sleeping and when we woke up we found water encroaching on the house.”
“We’re inside trying to get out.”
Witnesses said the water level had reached three meters.
West of Derna, images showed a collapsed road between the port city of Sousse and Shahat, home to the archaeological site of Cyrene, founded by Greece and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Libya’s eastern parliament declared three days of national mourning.
Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, Prime Minister of the interim government in Tripoli, also declared three days of national mourning in all affected cities and called them “disaster areas”.
Four major oil ports in Libya – Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Es Sidra – were closed for three days from Saturday evening, two oil engineers told Reuters.
Search and rescue operations are underway, witnesses said. The authorities declared an extreme state of emergency, closed schools and shops and imposed a curfew.
In Tripoli, the interim government ordered all state authorities to “immediately” address the damage and flooding in eastern cities, but the government has no influence in the east.
However, Dbeibah’s government works closely with the Central Bank of Libya, which disburses funds to government offices across the country.
The United Nations in Libya said it was closely monitoring the storm and was “providing urgent assistance to support response efforts at the local and national levels.”
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani promised to send aid to the affected area in eastern Libya.
The flooding came just two days after Morocco was devastated by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake – making it one of the deadliest disasters the country has seen in over 120 years.
More than 2,900 people died and 2,059 were injured after the powerful quake struck shortly after 11pm local time on Friday.
People fled buildings in fear, and those who could not escape were killed as houses collapsed.