Over 5,000 people are feared dead and 10,000 are missing after torrential rains in Libya caused two dams to collapse, submerging the eastern city of Derna, reported CNN.
The catastrophic situation arose on Sunday night after Mediterranean storm Daniel swept the country’s coast, wiping out at least a quarter of Derna. The cities of Al Marj, Susah, Shahat and Al Bayda have also recorded several fatalities and at least 20,000 people have been displaced, according to The New York Times.
Officials involved in rescue and relief efforts were only able to reach Derna on Tuesday as the floods damaged roads to the coastal city of around 89,000 people.
The delay is also being attributed to the political divisions in Libya. The country was split in 2014 between the internationally recognised government based in Tripoli and a separately administered region in the east, which includes Derna. This has led to inadequate infrastructure, economic instability and environmental degradation.
Videos shared on social media on Wednesday showed the extent of damage caused by the floods, with entire residential blocks being swept away along Wadi Derna, a river that runs down from the mountains through the city centre.
Emergency responders, including government workers, volunteers and residents, were digging through the rubble to recover bodies. Workers told CBS News that they had buried over 200 bodies in one cemetery till Monday evening.
Osama Aly, an emergency and ambulance service spokesperson, was quoted as saying that hospitals in Derna are no longer operable. Since the morgues are full, bodies are being left outside on the sidewalks.
“There are no first-hand emergency services,” Anas Barghathy, a doctor currently volunteering in Derna, told CNN. “People are working at the moment to collect the rotting bodies.”
The governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have promised to send humanitarian assistance and teams to help in rescue efforts in Libya.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the agency was working with local, national and international partners to help those who urgently needed humanitarian assistance.