At least 2,000 people are feared dead in Derna, after a powerful storm and floods hit the city in eastern Libya.
That is according to he prime minister of a self-proclaimed government based in eastern Libya, Osama Hamad. He added on Monday that thousands were missing, but did not cite where his figures had come from.
The head of the Red Crescent in Benghazi, Kais Fhakeri, has confirmed that Storm Daniel has killed at least 150 people dead in Derna city, after water levels in the city rose as high as three metres (10 feet).
Two dams have also collapsed in the city, the Derna municipal council has said, and videos posted online show entire residential blocks destroyed along Wadi Derna, a river that runs down from the mountains through the city centre.
“The city of Derna is completely surrounded by mountains, and these dams collapsed,” said Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina. “Some experts are saying more than 30 million cubic square metres of water was dumped into the city, and we’re starting to see pictures of entire neighbourhoods destroyed.
Footage on social media showed people stranded on the roofs of their vehicles as Storm Daniel hit the cities of Benghazi, Susa, Bayda, al-Marj and Derna on Sunday and Monday
“We were asleep, and when we woke up, we found water besieging the house. We are inside and trying to get out,” Derna resident Ahmed Mohamed said on Monday.
Outside of Derna, at least 12 people have been reported dead in the eastern town of Bayda, the town’s main medical centre said. Another seven people were reported dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority. Seven others were reported dead in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, the minister said.
One other person was confirmed dead on Sunday. The man was stuck in his car and surrounded by flooding in the eastern town of al-Marj, according to Walid al-Arfi, spokesperson for the emergency response agency in eastern Libya.
The Libyan Red Crescent said it lost contact with one of its workers as he attempted to help a stuck family in Bayda. Dozens of others were reported missing, and authorities fear they could have died in the floods that destroyed homes and other properties in several towns in eastern Libya, according to local media.
The missing include seven members of the Libyan National Army (LNA), a force led by Khalifa Haftar which controls the eastern part of the divided country, LNA spokesperson Ahmad Mismari said.
Heavy floods washed away vehicles, footage broadcast by eastern Libya’s Almostakbal TV showed. The channel also posted pictures of a collapsed road between Susa and Shahat, the home to the Greek-founded and UNESCO-listed archaeological site Cyrene.
Libya’s eastern-based parliament declared three days of mourning. Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the internationally-recognised interim government in Tripoli, in western Libya, also declared three days of mourning in all the affected cities, calling them “disaster areas”.
Four major oil ports in Libya, Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Es Sidra, were closed from Saturday evening for three days, two oil engineers said.
Search and rescue operations were ongoing, witnesses said. Authorities declared a state of extreme emergency, closing schools and stores and imposing a curfew.
Though his administration holds little sway in eastern Libya, Dbeibah said on Sunday he had directed all state agencies to “immediately deal” with the damage and floods in eastern cities.
Dbeibah’s government is recognised by the Central Bank of Libya, which disburses funds to government departments across the country.
The United Nations in Libya said it was following the storm closely and would “provide urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels”.