10,000 missing after 'tsunami' from burst dam wipes out Libyan city
At least 10,000 people are feared missing after a dam burst, sending a ‘tsunami-like’ flood through a city in Libya.
Storm Daniel has moved across the Mediterranean to batter the North African country, causing catastrophic damage as it wiped out the eastern city of Derna.
More than 1,000 bodies have already been recovered, the local administration said, with up to a quarter of the city in ruins after buildings were destroyed by fast moving floodwater.
Thousands are missing and officials expect the death toll to climb much higher.
Derna is a coastal city with around 125,000 residents – but today it is unrecognisable with overturned vehicles, fallen trees, and abandoned, flooded houses.
The city is bisected by a seasonal river – but 11.5km upstream, an enormous dam collapsed.
Videos show a powerful torrent of water flooding through Derna’s city centre with ruined buildings on either side.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, minister of civil aviation and member of the emergency committee in the administration that controls the east of Libya, described apocalyptic scenes.
He said: ‘I returned from Derna. It is very disastrous. Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings.
‘The number of bodies recovered in Derna is more 1,000.
‘I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed.’
He later added that the dam had not been properly maintained for some time, telling the BBC: ‘I was shocked by what I saw, it’s like a tsunami.
‘A massive neighbourhood has been destroyed – there is a large number of victims, which is increasing each hour.
‘Currently 1,500 dead. More than 2,000 missing. We don’t have accurate figures but it’s a calamity.’
Libya has been left in chaos since its long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Since then the country has been split in two, with an interim internationally recognised government operating from the capital of Tripoli, and another in the east.
This split is hampering rescue efforts, says Libyan journalist Abdulkader Assad, as authorities aren’t able to respond quickly to natural disasters.
He said: ‘There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years was about war.
‘There are two governments in Libya, and that is actually slowing down the help that is coming to Libya because it’s a little bit confusing.
‘You have people who are pledging help but the help is not coming.’
Locals are begging for help amid the rescue and recovery effort.
Khalifa Touil, an ambulance worker, told local television station al-Masar: ‘We have nothing to save people, no machines, we are asking for urgent help.’
Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or ready to send aid.
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