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Libya floods: UN says most casualties could have been avoided as thousands more feared dead | cnn

Libya floods: UN says most casualties could have been avoided as thousands more feared dead |  cnn


The United Nations has said most of the deaths in the flash floods that hit Libya could have been “avoided”, as aid workers struggle to deliver crucial aid in a humanitarian effort stifled by political divisions and debris from the disaster.

At least 5,300 people have died in Libya and thousands more are feared missing after entire buildings were “swept away” when a seven-metre wave hit the northern coastal city of Derna, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday ( ICRC).

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Record-breaking rains engulfed cities in the North African nation last week, bursting two dams in the country’s northeast and sending a deluge of water into Derna, which has suffered the worst of the devastation.

“If the weather service had functioned normally, they would have issued warnings and emergency management would have been able to evacuate people and we would have avoided most of the human casualties,” said Petteri Taalas. The Secretary-General of the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told reporters at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday.

“Of course, we cannot completely avoid economic losses, but we could also have minimized them if we had implemented appropriate services,” Talaas added.

Talaas said the WMO has tried to engage with Libyan officials to improve these mechanisms, but because “the security situation in the country is so difficult, it is difficult to get there.”

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Libya has been riven by political turmoil since civil war broke out in 2014, and now has two rival governments. Each of them reports conflicting figures about the victims after the catastrophic floods in the country.

While the government backed by the eastern parliament reported at least 5,300 people dead, the internationally recognized government in Tripoli reports that more than 6,000 people have died. CNN cannot independently verify the number of deaths or missing.

The head of the ICRC delegation in Libya said it will take “many months, perhaps years” for residents of Derna to recover from the extent of the damage, after a seven-metre wave hit the northern coastal city this week.

“This disaster was violent and brutal. A 7 meter high wave leveled buildings and dragged infrastructure into the sea. Now there are missing relatives, bodies appear again on the coast and houses are destroyed,” said Yann Fridez.

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“It will take many months, perhaps years, for residents to recover from this enormous level of damage.”

The ICRC had a team in Derna to support families with microeconomic activities when floods devastated the city, adding that it will distribute 6,000 body bags to forensic teams in the eastern city of Benghazi to “ensure dignified treatment of the dead.”

Access to flood-affected areas remains a “major challenge” because roads have been destroyed, the ICRC said.

View this interactive content on CNN.com

Former Libyan Health Minister Reida El Oakley told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Wednesday that “a massive wave, as tall as a six-story building or more, swept across the country like a single-wave tsunami.”

Khaled Al-Shuwaihed, a Libyan national, said the situation in Derna “was a catastrophe.”

“It was a catastrophe, all my friends are dead,” al-Shuwaihed told Reuters on Thursday.

“One of my friends at the beginning was filming from the top of the valley, my friend, he was filming, died. Someone named Nasir Fatoury and his children (said to be dead), but so far these are all rumors, nothing has been confirmed. “One of my friends and his five children, only one of them found us.”

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

The Libyan city of Derna at dawn on September 14 after a powerful storm and heavy rain.

Yousef Murad/AP

People search for survivors in Derna, Libya, on Wednesday, September 13.

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Damaged buildings in Derna, Libya, after Storm Daniel.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Hassan El Salheen cries after burying the repatriated body of his son, Aly, who died along with his three cousins ​​in Libya after Storm Daniel hit the country, in Al Sharief village in Bani Swief province, Egypt.

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Members of the Egyptian army rescue team inspect damaged areas in Derna.

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

People walk through the rubble.

Muhammad J. Elalwany/AP

An aerial view of the flood damage in Derna.

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Members of the Libyan Red Crescent walk past flood damage.

Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A man huddles under a blanket as heavy rain hits Derna.

Yousef Murad/AP

Workers bury the bodies of flood victims in Derna.

Jamal Alkomaty/AP

A view from above shows the destroyed city of Derna, Libya, on Tuesday, September 12, after Storm Daniel caused devastating flooding.

Jamal Alkomaty/AP

A collapsed road in Derna.

Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

A man sits among the debris of the flood in Derna.

Abdullah Mohammed Bonja/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A disabled vehicle is partially buried in Derna.

Abdullah Mohammed Bonja/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

People cover the body of a victim in Derna.

Planet PBC/AP Laboratories

A satellite photograph shows the extent of Tuesday’s flooding in Derna.

Omar Jarhman/Reuters

People stand on a damaged road in the northeastern Libyan city of Shahhat on Monday, September 11.

AFP/Getty Images

People walk through a damaged area in Derna on Monday.

AFP/Getty Images

Toys are seen scattered on the floor of a damaged store in Derna.

Ali Al-Saadi/Reuters

Floods in the city of Shahhat.

AFP/Getty Images

Cars overturned by floodwaters lay piled up on a street in Derna.

AFP/Getty Images

The body of the flood victim lies in the back of a van in Derna.

Libyan Government/Handout/AP

A coastal road collapsed on Monday in Derna.

Medical volunteers said they were overwhelmed by the scale of the human disaster in Derna, as aid slowly began to arrive on Thursday amid fears of waterborne diseases.

More than 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, bodies piled up near outdated healthcare facilities, despite the need to treat survivors of the disaster.

Khaled Hamid, director general of a Libyan NGO, said aid donations were inadequate for the number of people needing treatment.

“The first step was easy, we raised money from equipment and donations from inside and outside the organization. We didn’t expect people to sympathize with us so much and thank God we received very good support,” Hamid told Reuters.

“This is a drop in the ocean of the needs we need for Derna, but while we came here we saw that people are coming from different cities in Libya, from Misrata, Tripoli, Zawiya, from all the cities.”

View this interactive content on CNN.com

On Thursday, the Derna seaport became accessible for ships with a minimum draft of 6.5 meters to deliver humanitarian aid to the severely damaged area, the Libyan Ports and Shipping Authority said.

A committee has been created to improve operations at the port, the statement said, adding that the main objective is to accelerate the delivery of aid to the region.

The Ministry of Transport is run by the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, western Libya, headed by Dbeibeh.

International leaders from countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria and Italy have pledged donations, but questions remain over how aid will reach parts of Libya controlled by rival forces.

Saudi Arabia said it would send food and shelter through the Saudi aid agency KS Relief in coordination with the Libyan Red Crescent and other aid groups.

The European Union pledged medical personnel and equipment, rescue boats, helicopters and other vital aid, after releasing $537,000 in humanitarian funds.



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