The death toll following Libya’s devastating floods has soared to 11,300 as 10,100 still remain missing after the catastrophic storm. A major dam collapse washed a 10ft deep torrent of water through the eastern city of Derna on Sunday – wiping out everything in its path.
Health authorities previously put the death toll in Derna at 5,500, but according to the Libyan Red Crescent, this number has since risen to a gut-wrenching 11,300. However, local officials suggested that the death toll could be much higher than announced.
In comments to the Saudi-owned Al Arabia television station on Thursday, Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi said the tally could climb to 20,000 given the number of neighborhoods that were washed out.
The apocalyptic Strom Daniel also killed around 170 people elsewhere in the country, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz, and Marj.
A U.N. official said Thursday that most casualties could have been avoided. “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.” The International Committee of the Red Cross added that it has provided 6,000 body bags to local authorities, as well as medical, food and other supplies distributed to hard-hit communities.
More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, said as Derna has begun burying victims of the devastating flood in mass graves.
He added that another 2,000 bodies were still being processed as rescue teams continue searching through wrecked buildings in the city centre for more victims.
Untold numbers could be buried under drifts of mud and debris, including overturned cars and chunks of concrete, that rise up to 13ft high. But rescuers have struggled to bring in heavy equipment as the floods washed out or blocked roads leading to the area.
After pummelling Greece last week, the storm barrelled through Mediterranean city, which has a population of around 125,000, on Sunday night and blasted citizens with a terrifying wall of water.
As the storm swept through, residents said they heard loud explosions when two dams outside the city collapsed. Deadly floodwaters gushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.
Officials in eastern Libya warned the public about the coming storm, and on Saturday, they ordered residents to evacuate coastal areas, fearing a surge from the sea – but there was no warning about the dams collapsing.