Devastating before and after pictures from Libya show a city swept to sea

Devastating storm sweeps Eastern Libya

As darkness fell over Libya on Sunday evening, videos began to emerge of a tsunami of mid-brown water crashing through city streets.

In the days that have followed, the scale of the devastation has become clear, but the death toll is still rising.

The port city of Derna in the northeast of the country was worst hit – an Interior Ministry spokesperson put the death toll at 5,300 there alone, but 10,000 remain missing, according to the Red Cross.

Storm Daniel last week caused “once-in-a-millennium” flooding in central Greece, before making its way across the Mediterranean. After an exceptionally hot summer in the region, the ground is bone dry and unable to absorb water.

A decade of war and division has passed since the death of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya has been hit hard

READ MORE: Libya floods leaves 10,000 dead with thousands more missing

The epicentre of this disaster is Derna. In a place where average monthly rainfall for the whole of September is under 1.5mm, over the weekend it exceeded 100mm, according to ReliefWeb.

The Wadi Darnah valley is dry for most of the year, but in the rainy season it deposits water into the Mediterranean in Derna. There are two dams upstream – both of which burst.

The raging flash flood smashed through the city of some 100,000 residents, sweeping houses, bridges, cars and people out to sea. 

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Othman Abduljalil, health minister in Libya’s eastern administration called the situation “catastrophic” when he toured the city on Monday.

Satellite imagery shows entire neighbourhoods have been washed away, and as much as a quarter of the city is thought been wiped off the map.

Derna’s hospitals have been overwhelmed by bodies, with reports of them lining the corridor and family members desperately searching faces for their loved ones.

Since the popular uprising that eventually overthrew and killed Gaddafi in 2011, oil-rich Libya has had little opportunity to invest in nation-building. 

The country remains divided between a UN-brokered and internationally recognised administration in the capital Tripoli, and a separate entity ruling over the disaster-stricken east.

Derna, about 150 miles east of Benghazi on the coast was once where ISIS militants gained strength in Libya, before being driven out by the Libyan National Army.

Infrastructure investment has been lacklustre and building regulation minimal.

Towns in the fertile lands surrounding Derna have also been badly hit, with 50 reported dead in Bayda and farmland visibly destroyed in Marj. The cities of Soussa, Al-Marj and Misrata were also affected by Storm Daniel.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said emergency response teams had been mobilised to help on the ground, and aid has begun to arrive from the US, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar, Egypt and Turkey.

Tamer Ramadan, head of a delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the final death toll was likely to be “huge”.

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