As residents and emergency responders in eastern Libya continued Wednesday to search storm debris for the bodies of missing people, satellite images released in the aftermath of this week’s devastating floods show the vast scope of the damage to Derna, a port city with a population of about 100,000.
Mediterranean Storm Daniel caused flooding across a wide section of northern Libya over the weekend, with the most catastrophic impacts seen in Derna. The city is bisected by a river, the Wadi Derna, which runs from the mountains down toward the city.
It became inundated with powerful floodwaters that spread across surrounding area as multiple dams burst along the waterway during the storm.
Before and after images taken from satellite view reveal stark comparisons. In some areas, entire clusters of buildings were swept away in the flooding. Officials have said they suspect that bodies of some individuals still missing were swept away, too.
In Derna, “challenges are immense, with phone lines down and heavy destruction hampering rescue efforts,” said Ciaran Donelly, the International Rescue Committee’s senior vice president for crisis response, said in a statement emailed to CBS News in the wake of the flooding. The committee called the disaster “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”
An interior ministry spokesperson saidthe death toll in Derna alone exceeded 5,300 people on Tuesday. Hichem Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation and a member of the emergency committee for the administration in eastern Libya, estimated that “25% of the city has disappeared,” according to Reuters. “Many, many buildings have collapsed,” Chkiouat reportedly said.
The International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that at least 30,000 people were displaced from their homes in Derna because of the flood damage. It was not the only hard-hit city, and the organization said at least 6,000 others were displaced from their homes across a wide section of northern Libya, including in Benghazi, one of the country’s most populous metropolitan areas.
Around 10,000 people were reported missing as of Tuesday, according to Tamer Ramada, the head of the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya.
More than 2,000 bodies had been found and collected by Wednesday morning, with more than half of them buried in mass graves in Derna, the Associated Press reported, citing Otham Abduljaleel, the health minister government in eastern Libya. The north African country is divided by two governments, controlling the east and west, respectively, and a violent civil war that has persisted between both sides for almost a decade is fueling concerns about potential barriers to aid reaching those impacted by the disaster.