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September 2023

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Derna’s Catastrophic Flooding: 10,000 Still Missing, UN Reports

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In the wake of the catastrophic flooding that has engulfed Libya‘s eastern city of Derna, the United Nations has reported a heartbreaking death toll of 11,300, with an additional 10,100 individuals still unaccounted for within the devastated city, according to information provided by the Libyan Red Crescent.

The UN update underscores the grim reality that these figures are likely to rise as dedicated search-and-rescue teams continue their relentless efforts to locate survivors. Even nearly a week after the devastating impact of Storm Daniel in northeastern Libya, the humanitarian situation in Derna remains dire.

The city is grappling with severe drinking water shortages, further exacerbated by the tragic poisoning of at least 55 children due to the consumption of contaminated water sources. In surrounding regions, which have endured years of armed conflict, the UN has sounded an alarm about the potential danger of landmines being displaced by the floodwaters, posing a threat to civilians who may enter these areas on foot.

The calamity unfolded when two dams upstream from Derna burst under the overwhelming force of torrential rains brought by the hurricane-strength Storm Daniel. These dams were originally constructed to shield the port city, which is home to 100,000 people, after experiencing significant flooding in the mid-20th century. The city’s center, densely built along the banks of a dried riverbed or wadi, bore the brunt of last week’s deluge as it surged toward the Mediterranean, leaving devastation in its wake.

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In a glimmer of hope, international aid is now pouring into North Africa to assist emergency services in coping with the aftermath of this tragic flood. The International Organization for Migration has reported that at least 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya, although the actual number is likely higher due to the challenges of accessing the worst-affected areas.

Aid from various corners of the world, including the United Nations, Europe, and the Middle East, has begun arriving to provide much-needed relief to the thousands of survivors. This aid encompasses essential medical supplies, emergency surgical equipment, and even body bags to facilitate the respectful handling of the deceased. Furthermore, tents, blankets, carpets, hygiene kits, and food supplies are being airlifted to the region, along with heavy machinery to aid in the clearance of debris and rubble.

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