Death toll in Libya hits 11,300 as fury grows over 'avoidable' tragedy amid warnings dead could hit 40,000

14 September 2023, 21:21 | Updated: 14 September 2023, 21:26

Libya has been devastated by the floods
Libya has been devastated by the floods. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

There is growing anger over the rising death toll in Libya following catastrophic flooding.

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The death toll in the Libyan city of Derna could reach as high as 40,000 after recent flooding, experts have warned, after Storm Daniel hit.

According to one United Nations (UN) official, the death toll was "avoidable", had warnings been in place.

“If there would have been a normal operating meteorological service, they could have issued the warnings,” Petteri Taalas said in Geneva.

Turkish rescue teams of AFAD in flood affected areas of Libya
Turkish rescue teams of AFAD in flood affected areas of Libya. Picture: Getty

It comes as Libya’s Red Cresent confirmed 11,300 people had been declared death in the wake of the floods.

Meanwhile, 10,000 people are considered missing.

The flood, triggered by Storm Daniel, burst through two dams and four bridges on Monday in the eastern city of Derna, destroyed around a quarter of the buildings.

Derna, which has a population of 100,000 people, has suffered a death toll of more than 5,000 people. Some 30,000 people have been displaced.

Storm Daniel, which hit on Sunday, also impacted the cities of Benghazi, Soussa and Al-Marj.

According to Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi, Derna's mayor, the death toll estimate is based on the number of districts that have been wiped out in the floods.

Maxar satellite imagery of the port facilities after the catastrophic flooding that struck the Libyan coastal city of Derna
Maxar satellite imagery of the port facilities after the catastrophic flooding that struck the Libyan coastal city of Derna. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, King Charles has expressed his condolences to those who lost their lives in the floods, and said the UK 'stands ready' to help.

"My wife and I are so desperately saddened by the devastating impact and loss of life caused by Storm Daniel and the subsequent floods," he said on Wednesday.

"We mourn with all those who have lost their loved ones, and continue to pray for everyone whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the horrific floods.

"I admire greatly all those who are engaged tirelessly in the rescue efforts in such dire conditions, and praise their selfless bravery."

The UK has so far committed to an initial £1m aid package.

Derna. Picture: Getty
Derna. Picture: Getty
Derna. Picture: Getty

Hichem Chkiouat, Benghazi’s minister of civil aviation, said previously that Derna was in a "disastrous" state.

"Bodies are lying everywhere — in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings," he told Reuters.

"I am not exaggerating when I say that 25 per cent of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed."

Read more: Devastating footage shows scale of flood-ravaged Skiathos as Brit holidaymakers trapped in hotels and airports

Read more: Red alert issued in Spain as heavy rain sweeps the country - and residents warned to stay indoors

Catastrophic floods hit Libya
Catastrophic floods hit Libya. Picture: Getty
Derna. Picture: Getty
Derna. Picture: Getty

Mohamed Eljarh, a managing partner at Libya Desk Consulting, said: "The high death toll in Derna is down to a lack of attention to these dams, which were last given a maintenance check in 2002 — so people are going to start demanding to know who was in charge here".

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the scenes in Libya were "heartbreaking".

"My deepest condolences to the people of Libya after the terrible floods that ravaged the country and claimed so many lives. The EU is by your side in this tragedy."

Martin Griffiths, Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN said he was "deeply concerned by the deadly flood emergency unfolding in Libya.

"Our thoughts are with the affected people. Emergency teams are being mobilized to help on the ground."

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