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Hundreds of people were feared dead after floods swept through eastern Libya destroying “entire neighbourhoods” of one city, with officials warning that thousands were missing.
The worst-affected area appeared to be the coastal city of Derna, with reports that the storm had destroyed dams, intensifying flooding that washed away buildings and homes.
The disaster unfolded when Storm Daniel, which had already unleashed torrential rain in Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, struck the north African state.
Osama Hamad, the head of a government in the east of Libya, told Libyan television that the authorities believed that 2,000 people had been killed.
“The missing are in the thousands, and the dead exceed 2,000,” Hamad said, according to news agencies. “Entire neighbourhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents . . . swept away by water.”
The Red Crescent rescue organisation had earlier said that the death toll in the city was 150, but with expectations that it would rise.
Ahmed Mismari, a spokesperson for the Libyan National Army, which controls eastern Libya, said that “whole neighbourhoods” had been swept into the sea. He warned that about 5,000 people were missing.
No electricity or communications were reportedly available in Derna, east of Benghazi. Videos on social media showed a large body of water running through it, alongside destroyed buildings. The authorities declared the city a disaster zone.
It was not possible to confirm the extent of the damage or losses of life. Officials did not provide sources for the death toll estimates.
Libya has been blighted by conflict since dictator Muammer Gaddafi was toppled after a popular uprising in 2011 escalated into a civil war. Rival factions carved the country into a patchwork of fiefdoms backed by armed militias.
The country has competing governments based in Tripoli, the capital, and eastern Libya, which has for years been under the control of Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general who leads the LNA. The divisions have rippled across public institutions, leaving the state weak and fragmented.
Georgette Gagnon, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Libya, said on social media that “early reports indicate that dozens of villages and towns have been severely affected by the storm, with widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure and loss of life”.
“I call on all local, national and international partners to join hands to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people in eastern Libya during this difficult time,” she said on social media platform X.