Storm Daniel leaves at least 2,000 dead in Libya after dams burst in a deadly flash flooding disaster

Storm Daniel leaves at least 2,000 dead in Libya after dams burst in a deadly flash flooding disaster
At least 2,000 died in the eastern city of Derna after two dams bust and washed the victims away, according to early reports. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews September 12, 2023

At least 2,000 people are thought to have perished after two dams in the eastern city of Derna burst, releasing a deadly wall of water through the city. 

More than 2,000 people are feared dead after subtropical storm Daniel ripped through Libya, causing a dam to burst that may have swept thousands of people away in deadly flooding on September 11.

Authorities fear the death toll may mount as rescue work begins in the afflicted regions. Storm Daniel made landfall at Benghazi, Libya’s second most populous city, on September 10. The storm swept away entire neighbourhoods in some coastal towns before moving eastwards across the country.

The eastern city of Derna has been declared a disaster zone after the medicane Daniel caused catastrophic flash flooding across the area overnight. Many residential buildings have been destroyed along the riverbanks.

Derna has already been battered for years, a formerly stronghold of Islamic extremists in the chaos that has gripped Libya for more than a decade and left it with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure. Today it's under the control of the eastern-based military government. Libya remains divided between two rival military backed governments, one in the east and one in the west.

The confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61, according to health authorities, AP reports, but that count doesn’t include Derna, which appears to be one of the worst hit of all cities.

Rescue workers are battling to make their way to Derna, but the roads are inaccessible, according to local reports, and many thousands of people are feared missing there. Authorities fear that locals were carried away by a powerful wave of water after two upstream dams burst.

A medicane is an extremely rare Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone, also called Mediterranean cyclones or Mediterranean hurricanes. This year extreme heat in the southern part of Europe over the summer has warmed the sea temperatures to the point where they feed extreme winds and storms that have led to unprecedented flash flooding disasters across the region. In Greece alone three years’ worth of rain fell in two days, washing away villages and flooding the entire plain of Thessaly.

video of Derna posted online shows buildings swept away along the banks of the river and widespread destruction in the city. Entire residential areas were washed away and apartment blocks collapsed as the ground was turned to mud, AP reports.

Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government said he feared at least 2,000 had died in Derna alone and thousands were believed missing in a phone interview with the station on September 12 cited by AP. He said that Derna has been declared a disaster zone.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the country’s eastern government, told a news conference that the death toll in Derna is more than 2,000 and that between 5,000 and 6,000 people have been reported missing.

At least 46 people were reported dead in the eastern town of Bayda, Abdel-Rahim Mazek, head of the town’s main medical centre said, reports AP. Another seven were confirmed dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya. Seven more died in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, said Ossama Abduljaleel, the health minister.

The Libyan Red Crescent said three of its workers had died while helping families in Derna. Earlier, the group said it lost contact with one of its workers as he attempted to help a stuck family in Bayda, AP reports.

International aid organisations are now scrambling to bring aid to the country.