Libya floods five days on: Devastated cities, a divided government and a soaring death toll

ITV News' Emma Murphy sent this report from Eastern Libya.

Survivors, left homeless on the flood-ravaged streets of Libya, are desperately awaiting aid, as pressure grows on the country's divided rival governments to unite in the face of tragedy.

In the five days since the devastating deluge hit the north African country, 11,300 people have died, whole families and villages have been wiped out and more than 10,000 people remain missing.

While many towns and cities in eastern Libya saw deadly flooding, Derna was the worst-hit.

Footage shows apartment buildings and office blocks carved open by the torrents of waters and wrecked cars abandoned in the port city’s beach promenade.

“What descended was a torrent of debris killing everyone,” resident Ibrahim Moussa said. "Now, the dead are trapped under several metres of mud and detritus."

The flooded city of Derna, Libya Credit: Muhammad J Elalwany/AP

Derna had no evacuation plans, and many residents said they did not know they were in danger until they heard the explosive sound of two dams rupturing.

But this tragic disaster 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.”

Libyan authorities blocked civilians from entering the flood-stricken city on Friday so search teams could look through the mud and wrecked buildings.

On Thursday, heavy machinery was brought in to dig up bodies buried under mud and debris.

Now, the focus has turned to how this disaster happened and how the country will recover.

The devastation has highlighted Libya's political turmoil. It has been divided between rival governments for almost a decade - one in the east, the other in the capital, Tripoli.

But the floods brought a rare moment of unity, as government agencies across the country rushed to help the affected areas.

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

The Tobruk-based government of eastern Libya is leading relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the Tripoli-based western government allocated the equivalent of $412 million (around £353,187,000) for reconstruction in Derna and other eastern towns, and an armed group in Tripoli sent a convoy with humanitarian aid.

But one key issue which has spawned from the government being divided, has been the widespread neglect of infrastructure.

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

What caused the flooding?

The flooding was caused by two dams collapsing outside Derna.

They were built in the 1970s and had not been maintained despite the allocation of more than two million euros (£1,714,900) for that purpose in 2012 and 2013, according to a report by a state-run audit agency in 2021.

Daniel, an unusually strong Mediterranean storm, caused deadly flooding in communities across eastern Libya.

As the weather system pounded the coast on Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when two dams outside the city collapsed.

Floodwaters gushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.

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