Libya digging out the dead but flood disaster could have been 'avoided'

This video contains distressing images

The devastation caused after powerful floodwaters ripped through Libya's cities has left thousands dead, ITV News' Neil Connery reports

Bodies are "constantly" being washed ashore, morgues are overwhelmed and the death toll from the catastrophic flooding in Libya is predicted to be in the tens of thousands.

Yet this horrifying disaster unfolding in the north African country could have been avoided, according to a top UN official.

“If there would have been a normal operating meteorological service, they could have issued the warnings," World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva.

"The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out the evacuation.”

Instead, after Mediterranean Storm Daniel caused two dams to break on Sunday, people are digging their relatives out of the rubble by hand, with untold numbers buried under drifts of mud and debris.

People look for survivors in Derna, Libya. Credit: PA

"Bodies are everywhere, inside houses, in the streets, at sea. Wherever you go, you find dead men, women, and children," said Emad al-Falah, an aid worker from Benghazi.

It is feared the the current death toll of 11,300 could double as heavy machinery reaches the wiped-out cities, with Derna mayor Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi estimating 18,000-20,000 could have been killed.

Derna has buried thousands of people in mass graves as search teams scour wrecked buildings in city centres and divers comb seawater.

Residents from the city, which is more than 500 miles east of Libya's capital, Tripoli, said they heard loud explosions when the dams collapsed, sending a torrent of rushing water through.

Mohammed Derna, a 34-year-old teacher and father of two, said he and his family saw women and young children being washed away.

“They were screaming, help, help,” he told AP, over the phone from a field hospital in Derna. “It was like a Hollywood horror movie.”

His family spent Sunday night on the roof of their apartment building before managing to get out Monday morning.

Entire residential blocks in the city have been washed away along the Wadi Derna - a main river that flows through its centre - while the “sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies”, a local official told Reuters.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 30,000 people have been made homeless.

Why has the flooding in Libya been so catastrophic? ITV News' Yasmin Bodalbhai explains

Of the seven roads leading to the city, only two are now accessible from its southern edge, while a number of bridges linking parts of Derna's east to its west have been destroyed.

"The city of Derna was submerged by waves seven metres high that destroyed everything in their path," Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee for The Red Cross in Libya, told France24.

The morgues hitting capacity has meant hundreds of the recovered bodies have been moved to nearby towns.

Derna has been deemed almost inaccessible for aid workers to reach. Credit: AP

Aid has been sent to the affected areas by both regional governments in Libya, while Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries to have pledged international assistance.

Joe Biden has said the United States is sending emergency funds to relief organisations and coordinating with the Libyan authorities and the United Nations (UN) to provide additional support.

Derna is controlled by the forces of powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter. He is allied with the east Libya government.

On Wednesday, King Charles sent a message of condolence to the Chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed al-Menfi, saying he's "desperately saddened by the devastating impact and loss of life".

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