Published: 2023-09-18 11:22
Last Updated: 2023-09-24 16:57
A week after a tsunami-sized flash flood devastated the Libyan coastal city of Derna, sweeping thousands to their deaths, the international aid effort to help the grieving survivors slowly gathered pace Sunday.
Search-and-rescue teams wearing face masks and protective suits kept up the grim search for bodies or any survivors in the mud-caked wasteland of smashed buildings, crushed cars and uprooted trees.
Traumatized residents, 30,000 of whom are now homeless in Derna alone, badly need clean water, food, shelter and basic supplies amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition, UN agencies warn.
"In this city, every single family has been affected," said one resident, Mohammad al-Dawali.
Another, Mohamed al-Zawi, 25, recounted how he saw "a large mountain of water bringing with it cars, people, belongings... and pouring everything out into the sea".
Amid the chaos, the true death toll remained unknown, with untold numbers swept into the sea.
The health minister of the eastern administration, Othman Abdeljalil, has said 3,283 people were confirmed dead in Derna after another 31 bodies were recovered on Sunday.
Libyan officials and humanitarian organizations have warned, however, that the final toll could be much higher with thousands still missing.
Members of a Greek rescue team traveling from Benghazi to Derna were involved in a traffic accident on Sunday, authorities in both countries said.
Abdeljalil told reporters in Derna four rescue team members died and 15 were injured, seven seriously, after their coach was in a collision with a car in which three Libyan family members died.
In Athens, a statement Greek National Defence General Staff statement said there had been an accident but spoke only of "minor injuries" among the team members, and that the circumstances "have yet to be clarified".
UN Libya envoy Abdoulaye Bathily visited Derna on Saturday, and posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the devastation was "truly heart-wrenching. I saw firsthand the magnitude of the disaster. This crisis is beyond Libya's capacity to manage, it goes beyond politics and borders."
Emergency response teams and aid have been deployed from France, Greece, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, with more on the way from other nations.