'Every time they pick up debris, they uncover more bodies'

‘Every time they pick up debris, they uncover more bodies’

As the number of flood victims continues to climb in Libya, survivors from devastated towns in the northeast are still waiting to be rescued. Access to phone and internet networks has been cut off by the immense damage caused by the storm. Our Observer, a resident of Derna, the town hardest hit by the floods, recounts the moments leading up to the collapse of two dams.

Issued on:

2 min

Entire areas of northeastern Libya are completely underwater, and many residents are waiting impatiently to be rescued.

In Derna, hit by Storm Daniel on the night of September 11, 2023, buildings have been devastated, bridges washed away, entire neighbourhoods are submerged and roads have disappeared, leaving the city unrecognisable.

‘It all happened in no time’

At least 30,000 people were left homeless in Derna, while others had to flee the city centre, which was particularly hard hit by the floods. Our Observer, Salhin Al Furjan, a Derna resident and father has taken refuge with relatives in the surrounding area.

He told us how the town’s inhabitants were caught by surprise by two blasts, followed by flooding in the middle of the night:

It’s incredible what’s happened. Dead bodies everywhere. The numbers are mind-boggling. Every time they pick up the debris in a particular area, they uncover more bodies.

In the Derna valley, there are two dams. The first exploded 30 minutes before the second. The explosion and the resulting flow of water caused the second to explode, at 2:51am. The blast was heard throughout the city.

Honestly, we didn’t expect such a catastrophe. It all happened in no time at all. We hadn’t anticipated flooding like this. We’re completely bewildered. People who used to live in the centre of town can’t even get out  it’s all over for them.

At the time of the flood, the water rose to 20 metres. Residents took shelter on the roofs of their buildings, hoping that the water wouldn’t reach them. The damage was staggering. Entire roads were cut in two. Buildings as high as 12 storeys were lost.

The latest death toll announced by the Libyan authorities in the region on September 14, 2023 was over 5,100. This death toll could well rise, as more than 20,000 people are feared dead, according to Derna’s mayor.

The United Nations has pledged 10 million dollars (around 9.3 million euros) to help the survivors, while the European Union has allocated 500,000 euros.