An estimated 2,000 people have died and 10,000 more are reported missing after Storm Daniel wreaked havoc on Libya’s northeast region. The storm unleashed a torrential downpour that overwhelmed the region, causing two dams to collapse and opening a subsequent floodgate of water into already inundated areas.
The eastern city of Derna, which bore the brunt of the calamity, has been particularly hard-hit. According to authorities, entire neighborhoods in Derna have likely been swept away by the relentless floodwaters. Libya’s Eastern Administrative Health Minister, Othman Abduljalil, conveyed this dire situation to Libya’s Almasar TV.
Abduljalil, who visited Derna on Monday, described the situation as catastrophic, with bodies still scattered throughout the city. Abduljalil expressed concerns that some families may still be trapped in their homes or buried under debris. There is even speculation that some may have been swept out to sea by the powerful currents.
Denrna’s failing infrastructure stood little to no chance against Daniel’s high-powered winds and flooding. Jalel Harchaoui, an associate fellow specializing in Libya at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, highlighted that years of neglect and write-offs by local authorities in Derna are to blame for the level of destruction. Despite discussions about development, little action was taken, leaving the city ill-prepared to face such a catastrophic event.
Osama Aly, head of Libya’s Emergency and Amublace Authority told CNN “Libya was not prepared for a catastrophe like that. It has not witnessed that level of catastrophe before. We are admitting there were shortcomings even though this is the first time we face that level of catastrophe.”
The storm’s impact extended to other areas in eastern Libya, including the town of Bayda, where approximately 50 casualties have been reported.
The origin of the storm can be attributed to an exceptionally strong low-pressure system. This system initially wreaked havoc in Greece, causing widespread flooding, before moving into the Mediterranean. Once there the storm evolved into a tropical-like cyclone, known as a medicane.
Efforts to provide aid have commenced, with Benghazi, a staging ground 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Derna, serving as a focal point. Egyptian military officials, alongside a rescue team and helicopters, have arrived in Benghazi. The Tripoli-based government of western Libya dispatched a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies and healthcare workers to Benghazi.
U.S. Special Envoy for Libya, Richard Norland, stated that the United States is actively coordinating with the United Nations and local authorities to determine the most effective approach for official U.S. assistance. Additionally, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have pledged their support for search and rescue efforts.