Libya floods: The city where the missing outnumber the dead and overwhelm the living

A week on from when the devastating floods hit, the tides are still bringing in some of the dead. ITV News' Emma Murphy reports from Eastern Libya

On the hillside above Derna those who survived gather to survey what is left of their city.

To remember who they have lost and reminisce about how beautiful this place used to be, the waterfalls, the greenery.

Now there’s no greenery and the waterfalls are likely a reminder of when the dams burst and the water cascaded down.

As the light faded one week on, a little girl in a red Mickey Mouse T-shirt walked with her father. Hand in hand they looked out as he tried to explain what had happened.

Ten-year-old Watin Ghazi had many questions, not one of them is easy to answer.

For Abudallah, her father, the hardest question is the one asked most often: “Where are my cousins, why don’t they come to play?”

Watin Ghazi and her father Abdullah Ghazi. Credit: ITV News

He can’t answer because he doesn’t know. All three are lost along with their parents. Other family members are also missing.

Every day they hear desperate news of more friends. There’s rarely good news.

Abdullah had objected to the thousands of homes that had been built in the valley, he thought they destroyed the greenery. Now he wishes they were there.

Having stayed during the assault of ISIS he does not want to leave now.

“We have to stay, we should stay in Derna. When Derna was suffering from wars and ISIS we didn’t leave. Now with all this destruction will we leave it? No. We will stay.”

Watin heard the conversation between her mother and her aunt as the buildings fell.

“At 2 o'clock my auntie called my mum and I could hear her little girl, my friend, crying,” she told me.

"Then the building fell down and then the connection went and then we couldn’t reach them, and that’s it."

Derna wasn’t a big city, it’s much smaller now. A quarter of the 100,000 population are either dead or missing.

Others have left. There isn’t much to stay for. A vast swathe of the city has floated into the sea and the sea has drifted into the city.

Everyone who has stayed is missing someone. For days now we have watched and listened as the bereaved count on hand after hand those who were lost in this tragedy.

It’s a measure of the tragedy when the people who feel lucky are the people whose loved ones are wrapped in body bags.

At least they know where they are and they aren’t lost to the sea.

Every day the tides bring in some of the dead, the bodies catching in debris of the city now in the water.

Every body gets a number which links them to the grave in which they are buried. Credit: ITV News

On the seafront, the body recovery teams receive the dead and seek to offer what dignity they can.

They will wash them and offer a prayer and then it is to the graveyard for a DNA test and burial.

Every test and body gets a number which links them to the grave in which they are buried.

One day there may be a match between the as yet unidentified and those who mourn them.

For now, and for a long to come, Derna is the city where the missing outnumber the dead and overwhelm the living.

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