A concerted international endeavor is gaining momentum to provide assistance to a beleaguered Libya, which recently endured a catastrophic flood likened to a tsunami, claiming the lives of nearly 4,000 individuals and leaving thousands unaccounted for.
Promptly following the disaster, military transport aircraft hailing from Middle Eastern and European nations, alongside naval vessels, have been actively engaged in delivering crucial emergency aid to this North African nation, already grappling with the scars of war.
Magnitude of the Tragedy
In the wake of this colossal flash flood that struck the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna with unprecedented force on Sunday, tens of thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes. This devastating deluge unfolded as two upstream dams gave way under the relentless assault of torrential rains, courtesy of Storm Daniel.
The deluge unleashed a wall of water that swept away buildings, vehicles, and their occupants. Many found themselves carried out to sea, their lifeless bodies later washing ashore amidst a backdrop of debris-strewn beaches and mangled car wrecks.
A Series of Calamities
This calamity strikes the North African region hot on the heels of another tragedy—an earthquake registering 6.8 on the Richter scale—which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 individuals in Morocco just last Friday.
International Aid Commitment
The United Nations has pledged a substantial $10 million to provide support to the survivors in Libya, a country where at least 30,000 people have been left homeless in Derna alone, amounting to nearly a third of the city’s pre-disaster population.
However, delivering this aid will pose significant challenges as obstructed, destroyed, and waterlogged roads severely impede the access of humanitarian actors. The region is also grappling with widespread power outages and communication breakdowns, exacerbating the crisis.
Several countries have rallied to provide assistance. The United Kingdom announced an initial aid package valued at up to £1 million ($1.25 million), focusing on addressing the most pressing needs, including shelter, healthcare, and sanitation, in collaboration with local partners.
Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has ordered the establishment of shelter camps for the disaster survivors, extending a helping hand to Libya’s neighboring nation.
France is dispatching approximately 40 rescuers along with tons of medical supplies and a field hospital. Turkey, as one of the first respondents, has announced additional aid shipments by sea, including two field hospitals.
Italy is expected to deploy a naval vessel off the coast of Libya to provide logistical and medical support, while Germany, Romania, and Finland have also committed their assistance, as stated by the European Union.
Algeria, Qatar, and Tunisia have pledged their support, and the United Arab Emirates has sent two planes carrying 150 tonnes of aid, with an additional 40 tonnes of supplies en route via Kuwait.
Palestinian media reported the departure of a rescue mission from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, while Jordan dispatched a military plane laden with food parcels, tents, blankets, and mattresses.
Libya’s Ongoing Struggles
Libya, an oil-rich nation, is still grappling with the aftermath of the war and instability that followed the NATO-backed uprising in 2011, which toppled and resulted in the demise of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The country remains divided between two rival governments—the UN-brokered administration based in Tripoli, internationally recognized, and a separate administration in the disaster-stricken east.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the confirmed death toll has reached 3,840, according to Lieutenant Tarek al-Kharraz, spokesperson for the eastern-based government’s interior ministry. This grim figure encompasses 3,190 individuals who have already been laid to rest and at least 400 foreigners, predominantly from Sudan and Egypt. Tragically, 2,400 individuals remain missing, with some reports citing higher numbers.
The Ongoing Search for Missing Persons
Tamer Ramadan, representing the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, disclosed that their sources indicate that the number of missing persons has surged to an astonishing 10,000 individuals thus far.
Erik Tollefsen, the head of the weapon contamination unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross, has raised concerns regarding landmines originally planted during the war, now displaced by the floodwaters into areas previously devoid of weapon contamination.
Climate experts have drawn a link between this catastrophic event in Libya and the cumulative impact of global climate change, compounded by years of political turmoil and underinvestment in critical infrastructure.
As the international community rallies to support Libya in this dire hour of need, the world watches closely, hoping that the collective response can alleviate the suffering of those affected and help rebuild a resilient nation.