Searchers race to recover bodies in Libyan city where 5,100 died in flooding after 2 dams collapsed

Search teams combed streets, wrecked buildings and even the sea Wednesday to look for bodies in a coastal Libyan city where the collapse of two dams unleashed a massive flash flood that killed at least 5,100 people.
Searchers Race to Recover Bodies in Libyan City After Deadly Flooding
Searchers Race to Recover Bodies in Libyan City After Deadly Flooding

Derna (Libya) | Search teams combed streets, wrecked buildings and even the sea Wednesday to look for bodies in a coastal Libyan city where the collapse of two dams unleashed a massive flash flood that killed at least 5,100 people.

The Mediterranean city of Derna has struggled to get help after Sunday night's deluge washed away most access roads. Aid workers who managed to reach the city described devastation in its center, with thousands still missing and tens of thousands left homeless.

“Bodies are everywhere, inside houses, in the streets, at sea. Wherever you go, you find dead men, women, and children,” Emad al-Falah, an aid worker from Benghazi, said over the phone from Derna. “Entire families were lost.” Mediterranean storm Daniel caused deadly flooding Sunday in many towns of eastern Libya, but the worst-hit was Derna. Two dams in the mountains above the city collapsed, sending floodwaters roaring down the Wadi Derna river and through the city center, sweeping away entire city blocks.

As much as a quarter of the city has disappeared, emergency officials said.

Waves rose as high as 7 meters (23 feet), Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya, told broadcaster France24.

Teacher Mohammed Derna said he, his family and neighbors rushed to the roof of their apartment building, stunned at the volume of water rushing by. It reached the second story of many buildings, he said. They watched people below, including women and children being washed away.

Searchers Race to Recover Bodies in Libyan City After Deadly Flooding
Searchers Race to Recover Bodies in Libyan City After Deadly Flooding

Rabei Hanafy said his extended family lost 16 men in the flooding, 12 of whom were buried Wednesday. Another funeral for four others was held in a town in the northern Nile Delta.

Among those killed in Libya was the family of Saleh Sariyeh, a Palestinian originally from the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon who had lived in Derna for decades. The 62-year-old, his wife and two daughters were all killed when their home in Derna was washed away, his nephew Mohammed Sariyeh said.

The four were buried in Derna. Because of ongoing gunbattles in Ein el-Hilweh, the family there could not hold a gathering to receive condolences from friends and neighbors, Mohammed said.

Derna, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli, is controlled by the forces of powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, who is allied with the eastern Libyan government. The rival government in western Libya, based in Tripoli, is allied with other armed groups.

Derna was once a hub for extremist groups in the years of chaos that followed the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. (AP)

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