Libya flooding: Canadians worry for missing family members

Libya flooding: Canadians worry for missing family members

Ottawa –

Sagida Elnihum sits in her Ottawa kitchen scrolling through social media videos of the devastation in Derna, Libya.

On Sunday, a powerful storm pounded the port city with rain, bursting two dams, and levelling entire neighbourhoods. The Libyan Red Crescent said Thursday that 11,300 people have been killed, and a further 10,100 are reported missing

“This is where my grandmother’s house was,” a distraught Elnihum said, pointing to an aerial video showing large swaths of mud and debris surrounding a downtown Mosque.

Elnihum recently confirmed 14 of her family members are dead, and five others are missing.

“It’s not just death or flooding,” she said fighting through tears. “It’s memories. Home, where we (had) a beautiful gathering at Ramadan, where we eat, where we played, and it’s gone.”

Her sister and her three children were also feared missing, but aid workers found them Thursday in a neighbouring town.

“I want to hear her voice,” said Elnihum.

Earlier this week, she called her sister’s phone frantically, only to have a stranger pickup. He didn’t know where her sister was, after finding the phone among a pile of dead bodies.

“It’s a horrible idea,” Elnihum shuddered.

Traumatized from the videos, Elnihum phones a friend in Derna, hoping to learn more about the search efforts.

She quickly learns rescue crews, and international aid groups on the ground, simply don’t have enough heavy equipment, and support.

In Arabic, her friend tells her, first responders can hear people calling out, trapped under rubble. Unfortunately, she says they don’t have the equipment they need.

Elnihum fled Libya for Canada with her family in 2014, during a bloody civil war. There are 7,954 people in Canada who claim Libyan ancestry according to the 2021 census.

The North African country has long suffered from corruption, even before long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011.

The UN says two rival governments in Libya are co-ordinating relief efforts for the flood victims.

Elnihum says few trust the leadership in Libya. She is calling on the international community, and Canada to help.