Sunday, October 1, 2023

Floods in Libya: UN fears spread of disease

The UN announced on Monday that its agencies were working to prevent the spread of disease in the flood-hit Libyan city of Derna, where rescuers are still searching for the bodies of thousands of people missing and presumed dead.

• Read also: Libya: five members of a Greek rescue team killed in an accident

• Read also: Libya floods: Death toll in Derna rises to 11,300

In this city of 100,000 inhabitants, bordered by the Mediterranean in the east of the country, the floods caused on September 10 by the failure of two dams under the pressure of torrential rains caused by Storm Daniel, caused nearly 3,300 deaths, according to the last provisional official balance sheet, and left a landscape of desolation reminiscent of a battlefield.

International humanitarian organizations and Libyan officials warned, however, that the final number could be much higher due to the large number of people missing, estimated in the thousands, as Libyan and foreign rescuers were still mobilized on Monday.

The Libyan Red Crescent announced that it had created a platform to register the missing and asked the population to provide information about those wanted.

The UN support mission in Libya (Manul) explained in a statement that “teams from nine UN agencies were present on the ground in Derna and other towns in eastern Libya to provide ‘aid and support to those affected by the storm Daniel’.

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“Devastating crisis”

In the city, excavators and workers tried to clear the earth from the courtyard of a mosque on Monday, amid a nauseating smell, according to an AFP journalist.

In front, an elderly woman prays for her children and grandchildren who died in the disaster.

“The (World Health Organization) team continues to work to prevent the spread of disease and avoid a second devastating crisis in the region,” said the UN, whose agencies are “all concerned about the risk of disease spread, particularly through contaminated diseases”. water and lack of hygiene.

“For your safety, it is prohibited to use or drink water from the local network, because it is contaminated by floods,” warned the Libyan Center for Disease Control.

Rescuers sent by the United Arab Emirates met on Monday morning in the port of Derna with their Libyan counterparts to coordinate efforts to recover bodies at sea, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

“It is prohibited to touch the bodies or open the cars submerged under water,” warns the leader of the Emirati team, addressing his divers.

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Other teams of divers sent by Russia and Türkiye work in the same sector.

On Sunday, five members of a Greek rescue team died in a traffic accident shortly after arriving to take part in rescue operations, according to a new report out of Athens on Monday.

Three members of a Libyan family who were traveling in the car that collided with the Greek team’s vehicle were also killed and two others were seriously injured, according to Libyan authorities.

Six volunteers from Benghazi, the large city in the east of the country, also died on Sunday in a traffic accident while returning from Derna, according to the same sources.

“Temporary bridge”

Storm Daniel caused two dams to break upstream and caused tsunami-magnitude flooding along the wadi that runs through the city. She took everything in stride.

Dozens of bodies are extracted daily from the rubble of neighborhoods devastated by floods or washed away by the sea and buried in an apocalyptic landscape.

The organization of aid is complicated by the political chaos that has reigned in the country since the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi during a popular revolt in 2011: two governments, one in Tripoli (west), recognized by the UN, and the other in the East. , compete for power.

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Given the magnitude of the disaster, the rival sides seem to have put their disputes on hold. Important aid and relief teams were sent from Tripoli to the disaster areas.

The Tripoli government also announced on Monday the start of work for the construction of a “temporary bridge” over the riverbed that crosses Derna, since the two banks of the city were cut off since the waves carried away the four structures that supported them. They connected.

International aid is also increasing.

An Egyptian helicopter that will serve as a field hospital arrived on Sunday, with emergency and rescue teams on board, according to Egyptian state media.

France, which deployed a field hospital and sent rescuers to Derna, announced on Monday that it would also allocate “4 million euros to the United Nations for emergency aid and reconstruction in Libya.”

The European Union, for its part, announced the release of 5.2 million euros for humanitarian aid in the country.

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