By Janet Ekstract ISTANBUL- In shocking swiftness, on Sunday, Storm Daniel, classified as a medicane – similar to a hurricane, wreaked destruction and havoc across numerous towns in eastern Libya with an ever increasing death toll, now surpassing 6,000. A first of its kind for the North African nation, the storm brought torrential rains to the Libyan coast that set off mass flooding which scientists report is due to climate change. Storm Daniel, according to atmospheric scientists had similarities to a hurricane but not quite as strong with medicanes occurring once or twice a year in the Mediterranean. Dams collapsed outside the eastern city of Derna where a majority of the devastation occurred and hundreds of bodies were found on Tuesday with 10,000 people still missing where entire neighborhoods were washed away. Climate scientists and meteorologists explained that with the Mediterranean’s current temperature of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer in 2023 than last year, this drives the velocity of the storm.
On Wednesday, search teams in Libya went in search of bodies in Derna, hardest hit where over 5,000 were killed. Most roads were inaccessible due to flooding but aid workers finally reached Derna’s city center to help those still alive and search for the missing. Tens of thousands have been left homeless in regions hardest hit in Libya while the U.N. has committed disaster relief to the country. Eyewitnesses and aid workers report dead bodies everywhere, inside houses, in the streets and the sea – men, women and children with entire families lost. The sheer force of the waters could be likened to a tusunami with waves as high as 23 feet. Derna, situated on a narrow coastal plain under steep mountains, has only two usable roads from the south that take a winding route through the mountains. With collapsed bridges, transport became much more treacherous and more than 7,000 people in Derna were injured in the mass flooding.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the interior ministry in eastern Libya, indicated the death toll in Derna, east of Benghazi, was close to 6,000 and rising. Search teams have been continuing to collect bodies and it’s estimated that thousands more are missing with communications being restored in the wake of the disaster. The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said that at least 30,000 people in Derna are displaced by the flooding. Storm Daniel hit other towns including Bayda, Susa and Marj where rescuers were retrieving more bodies on Wednesday. On Tuesday, international aid began arriving from Turkiye, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and the United Arab Emirates including rescue teams. There was also assistance from the UK and German government including blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tents, water filters and generators. U.S. President Joe Biden said his government is sending money to relief organizations and is coordinating with Libyan authorities and the U.N. to provide additional support. Many of the dead include workers from other countries especially Egypt.