Libya is facing a serious threat of disease outbreak after catastrophic floods killed thousands of people and left many more missing in the city of Derna. The floods were caused by a powerful storm that burst two dams and unleashed a torrent of water that swept away buildings, cars and people on Saturday night.
The death toll from the floods could reach 20,000, according to the mayor of Derna, Abdel Moneim Al-Ghaithi. He said that the situation was very large and surprising for the city and that the authorities were not able to confront it with their capabilities. He also said that the sea was constantly dumping dozens of bodies along the coast.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that at least 30,000 people were displaced in Derna, the town most affected by the storm. The IOM added that 6,085 people were displaced in other storm-hit areas, including Benghazi.
Rescuers are calling for more body bags to be sent to Derna, as fears grow of waterborne diseases spreading from rotting corpses. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that it was sending emergency medical supplies and staff to Derna to support the local health authorities. The WHO also warned of the risk of cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A outbreaks due to contaminated water sources.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that it issued warnings 72 hours before the dams collapsed, but that most of the deaths could have been avoided if the authorities had better warning systems in place. The WMO said that it contacted the Libyan authorities and made statements to the media, leading to a state of emergency being declared in the country.
The floods have also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and economy of Derna. The roads and bridges authority estimated that 30 kilometers of road network and five bridges were destroyed by the floods. The area devastated by the floods covered 90 hectares. The reconstruction of the city could cost billions of dollars, according to the minister of civil aviation, Hichem Abu Chkiouat.
The international community has expressed its solidarity and support for Libya in this difficult time. The United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League and several countries have offered humanitarian assistance and condolences to Libya. The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said that he was deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction caused by the floods and that he stood ready to mobilize any support required from the UN.