International aid continued to arrive in Libya’s flood-hit city of Derna this Saturday, but hopes of finding survivors among the thousands of people missing are fading six days after the disaster.
Last Sunday night, Storm Daniel hit Derna, a city of 100,000 people in eastern Africa, with enough water to burst two dams and cause tsunami-sized flooding along the river bed that cuts through the city.
The water swept away everything in its path, killing thousands.
An AFP photographer said large parts of the city appeared to have been hit by a powerful earthquake. Entire buildings were washed away, some were half destroyed, and destroyed cars could be seen everywhere.
Othman Abdeljalil, the health minister in the government installed in eastern Libya, announced on Saturday night the death toll at 3,252, 86 more than he had reported 24 hours earlier.
He also ruled out any possibility of evacuation of the city, stressing that only the ministry has the authority to establish a balance, despite the various figures published in recent days.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Saturday, without disclosing the source of the data, that 3,958 bodies had been found and identified and “more than 9,000” remained “missing.”
-Dead body in the bay-
Maltese rescue teams assisting in the search for Libyans at sea found hundreds of bodies in the bay, without disclosing the exact location, The Times of Malta reported.
“There were probably 400 fish, but it’s hard to say,” Natalino Bezzina, team leader for the Maltese team, told the newspaper, adding that strong winds made it difficult to access the bay.
According to a video on the network, Zodiac’s Libyan rescue team claims to have seen “possibly 600 bodies” in the sea off the coast of the Om al-Brikket region, about 20 kilometers east of Derna. The body was discovered by a Maltese.
A Maltese rescue worker was “accidentally killed” on Friday while participating in an operation to rescue the bodies of flood victims, eastern Libya’s government said.
Even in the face of disaster, international mobilization remains strong.
On Saturday, United Arab Emirates and Iranian planes unloaded large quantities of aid onto trucks at Benina Airport in the eastern main city of Benghazi, which was then transported 300 kilometers (300 kilometers) further east to the affected area, AFP news agency reported.
The Italian embassy said two helicopters, an excavator and a boat carrying tents and blankets had arrived off the coast of Derna.
A large amount of aid, including medical supplies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, also arrived in the east of the country.
Mostafa Mihraje, the French ambassador to Libya, said two French planes had landed in the east to “deploy a field hospital as close as possible to the victims of Derna.”
The WHO announced that “29 tonnes of medical equipment” had arrived in Benghazi from its global logistics center in Dubai. This is “enough to help approximately 250,000 people.”
Other humanitarian organizations, including Islamic Relief and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have also warned of the risk of disease spread related to possible water contamination.
Manoel Carton, medical coordinator for the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team that arrived in Derna two days ago, described the “chaotic” situation that prevented the proper conduct of the census and the identification of victims.
Rescue and search teams have been hampered by the political turmoil that has prevailed in the North African country since the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Since then, there have been two competing governments, one in Tripoli (in the west) recognized by the United Nations and led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, and one in the east under the powerful Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
After launching an investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy, Libya’s Attorney General al-Seddiq al-Sour said that the two dams that caused the disaster had been cracked since 1998.
In 2010, a Turkish company began construction after several years of delays, but construction was halted several months later due to the 2011 Libyan revolution and never resumed.