2,000 feared dead after floods strike eastern Libya

A flooded street in Marj, Libya. Credit: AP

More than 2,000 people are feared dead after flooding struck eastern Libya and washed away entire neighbourhoods.

East Libyan Prime Minister Ossama Hamad said he feared the death toll could rise significantly from the official figure of 38 as officials reach the cut-off city of Derna, which has been worst hit by the floods.

The flooding has been caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel which is expected to hit neighbouring Egpyt on Monday evening.

In a phone interview with al-Masar television station Hamad said the floods have swept away entire neighborhoods in Derna, which has been declared a disaster zone.

Thousands are feared to have died. Credit: AP

Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister of the east Libya government, announced a death toll earlier Monday of 27 in a telephone interview on the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.

Abduljaleel said the tally didn’t include the city of Derna, where the situation was less clear as of Monday afternoon.

The dead reported by Abduljaleel included 12 people in the eastern town of Bayda, the town’s main medical centre said.

The Libyan Red Crescent said it lost contact with one of its workers as he attempted to help a stuck family in Bayda.

Dozens of others were reported missing, and authorities fear they could have died in the floods that destroyed homes and other properties in several towns in eastern Libya, according to local media.

Derna, which was the worst hit, has become inaccessible and local media reported that the situation there was catastrophic with no electricity or communications.

Officials still have not reached the worst hit areas. Credit: AP

Over the weekend, Libyans shared footage on social media showing flooded houses and roads in many areas across eastern Libya.

They pleaded for help as floods besieged people inside their homes and in their vehicles.

Classes in Derna had been suspended in Derna over the weekend as a precaution against the storm.

The prime minister announced on Monday a three-day of mourning and ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-mast.

The influential military commander Khalifa Hifter deployed troops to help residents in Benghazi and other eastern towns.

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesperson for Hifter’s forces, said they lost contact with five troops who were helping besieged families in Bayda.

Libya, a country with over six million people, suffers from debilitating infrastructure after more than a decade of conflict.

The Mediterranean nation has plunged into chaos since a NATO-supported uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi who was later killed.

The oil-rich country has been divided for most of the past decade between rival administrations in the east and west.

Each administration is backed by armed groups and militias, and foreign governments.The floods come just days after a deadly earthquake killed more than 2,400 people in Morocco.

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