Thousands of people died after storms battered eastern Libya, as the country declared three days of national mourning for the victims, the head of the Tripoli-based National Unity Government Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said Monday.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting in Tripoli, Dbeibah said flags will be flown at half-staff on all public buildings during the mourning period. “We are continuing to take the necessary measures to provide relief to those affected,” Dbeibah said, calling on all officials and ministers to review the situation in the eastern region. “The current divisive situation will not prevent us from helping the affected villages and regions,” he added.
At least 27 people have been killed in the floods caused by the storm, according to authorities. “The death toll is likely to increase as around 50 people have been reported missing in a number of cities,” Health Minister of East Libya-based government Othman Abdaljalil told Anadolu Agency (AA). “Health authorities have mobilized all resources to provide help to areas hit by the floods,” he added.
But a military official in the region worst hit said the death toll was far higher and warned that many more thousands of people are still missing.
East-based pro-Haftar Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Major General Ahmed al-Mismari said around 2,000 people had been killed in the eastern city of Derna alone. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people are still missing, he told a news conference.
The death toll is likely to rise, according to medical sources in Derna. Two dams in the city have collapsed, the council said on its Facebook page.
Videos posted by the Derna municipal council showed massive damage, with overturned cars submerged in water.
Two governments are vying for power in Libya. One is based in Tripoli, in the west, and is led by Dbeibah. The other is in the east and is supported by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
The prime minister designate and finance minister of one of the rival governments in the country beset by civil war, Osama Hammad said more than 2,000 people may have been killed, in comments to Al-Massar television station.
He added that some cities had been entirely destroyed.
Storm Daniel swept several areas in eastern Libya on Sunday, most notably the cities of Benghazi, Bayda, and Al Marj, as well as Soussa and Derna, according to an Anadolu reporter.
The spokesman for the Ambulance and Emergency Service, Osama Ali, told “very difficult situation” in the eastern regions. The cities of al-Bayda, Derna, al-Marj, and Soussa, and the towns of Takenes, and al-Batta, were worst affected by the torrential rains and winds.
“Soussa is mainly under water and our teams cannot reach it as roads are cut off. We will need certainly helicopters to help save people,” he said.
Earlier, medical sources said the storm had killed up to 10 people in Soussa and 50 were still missing.
The al-Bayda Medical Centre said the storm had killed 12 people, in a preliminary toll.
Ahmed Makhlouf, of al-Bayda, the second largest city in the east of the country, that the situation “is very bad.”
“Electricity, all communications and the internet are cut. This is the largest flood we have witnessed in years, and it has swept away everything,” he said.
The army official also said that the military had lost contact with five soldiers while they were carrying out rescue efforts.
The U.N. mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement that it is following the situation closely and is ready to support efforts by the local authorities.
The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Libya, Georgette Gagnon, called on the international community to provide swift assistance. According to initial reports, “dozens of villages and towns have been severely affected by the storm,” Gagnon wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Countless militias are still fighting for power and influence in the oil-rich country. The conflict is further fuelled by foreign states.
All diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict peacefully have failed so far.