Storm Daniel: More than 2,000 feared dead as floods devastate eastern Libya

A view of a destroyed vehicle by damaged buildings in Libya’s eastern city of Derna (The Press Office of Libyan Prime)
A view of a destroyed vehicle by damaged buildings in Libya’s eastern city of Derna (The Press Office of Libyan Prime)

More than 2,000 people are feared dead after Storm Daniel caused devastating floods in eastern Libya, one of the country’s leaders has said.

The region’s Prime Minister Ossama Hamad said thousands were feared dead in the city of Derna, which is currently being held by Islamic extremists.

The confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61 as of late Monday, according to health authorities. But the tally did not include Derna, which had become inaccessible, and many of the thousands missing there were believed carried away by waters.

Footage posted online showed homes being swept away by floods and large buildings partially collapsed into mud.

In a phone interview with al-Masar television station, Mr Hamad said 2,000 were feared dead in Derna and thousands were believed missing. He said Derna has been declared a disaster zone.

“The missing are in the thousands, and the dead exceed 2,000,” he said. “Entire neighbourhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents ... swept away by water.”

Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the country's armed forces based in the east, told a news conference that the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000 while between 5,000 and 6,000 people were reported missing.

He attributed the catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, which caused a lethal flash flood.

At least 46 people were reported dead in the eastern town of Bayda, Abdel-Rahim Mazek, head of the town's main medical center said. Another seven people were reported dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority.

Libya is politically divided between east and west and public services have crumbled since a 2011 Nato-backed uprising that sparked years of conflict. The internationally recognised government in Tripoli does not control eastern areas.

Eastern Libya's Almostkbal TV broadcast footage that showed people stranded on the roofs of their vehicles calling for help and waters washing away cars.

The United Nations in Libya said it was following the storm closely and would “provide urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels”.