More than 2,000 people may have been killed and thousands more are missing after a powerful storm prompted devastating flooding in eastern Libya, according to officials.
Osama Hamad, the head of Libya’s eastern Parliament-backed government, told local television that more than 2,000 people were believed to be dead and thousands more were missing in the city of Derna after Storm Daniel brought so much rain over the weekend that dams collapsed, sweeping away buildings and homes.
He said Derna, which has become virtually inaccessible following the flooding, has been declared a disaster zone.
Libya’s eastern-based Parliament has declared three days of mourning in all the affected cities.
Ahmed Mismari, spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA) that controls eastern Libya, also said in a televised news conference that the death toll was believed to be in the thousands following the extreme flooding.
Mr. Mismari said that “whole neighborhoods” and their residents had been swept into the sea after the dams broke.
The LNA spokesperson said an estimated 5,000-6,000 were currently missing in Derna, a city formerly held by Islamic extremists that has a population of 100,000.
The official death toll from the flooding is not yet known.
The Red Crescent in Benghazi had earlier put the death toll at an estimated 150 but stressed that the figure would likely rise to 250 after multiple buildings collapsed during the storm.
“The situation is very catastrophic,” Kais Fhakeri, the head of the humanitarian agency, told Reuters on Sept. 11.
Storm Daniel, also known as Cyclone Daniel, made landfall in the North African country on Sept. 10, causing severe weather conditions in the cities of Sousse, Al Bayda, Al-Marj, Derna, and Libya’s second biggest city of Benghazi.
Separately, the National Center of Meteorology in Libya said 414.1 mm (16.3 inches) of rain was recorded in Bayda when the storm hit, while 240 mm (9.4 inches) of rain fell in Marawah in the District of Jabal al Akhdar on Sept. 10.
At least 46 deaths from the storm were also reported in the eastern town of Bayda, Abdel-Rahim Mazek, head of the town’s main medical center, said.
Another seven people were reported dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority.
Streets Turned to Rivers
Seven others were reported dead in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, said Health Minister Ossama Abduljaleel. One person was reported dead on Sunday in the town of Marj.
Libya’s Almostakbal TV broadcast video footage and images showing buildings and homes that had collapsed.
People could also be seen stranded on the roofs of their vehicles in the wake of the flooding as streets turned into rivers. The TV station also posted pictures of a collapsed road between Sousse and Shahat, which is home to the Greek-founded and UNESCO-listed archaeological site Cyrene.
Libya, a country with a population of roughly six million people, has been divided between two rival administrations in the east and west since 2014 following the 2011 uprising against longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Early on Monday, the head of the country’s Tripoli-based unity government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, declared all areas exposed to the storm and floods as “disaster zones.”
Search-and-rescue operations remain ongoing.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.