Derna locked down: Libya's response to devastating floods
Following an increase in the Libyan Red Crescent's estimate of casualties, authorities have decided to restrict access to the affected town.
Libyan authorities have mostly restricted access to the flood-ravaged town of Derna, preventing civilians from entering. This measure aims to create a safe environment for emergency aid personnel and address worries about potential contamination of stagnant water, which could further contribute to the already alarming number of casualties.
Salem Al-Ferjani, who serves as the director-general of the ambulance and emergency service in eastern Libya, stated in a report by The Guardian that access to the flood-affected parts of the town would be restricted exclusively to search and rescue teams.
Official estimates indicate that the flooding has resulted in a minimum of 11,000 casualties. A considerable number of residents have already chosen to evacuate the town independently.
The decision to close off the town was prompted by the Libyan Red Crescent revising its assessment of the dead and missing. The United Nations has initiated a plea for $71 million and reported that approximately 884,000 people have been impacted by the floods that struck northeastern Libya on Sunday morning.
Bilal Sablouh, who serves as ICRC's regional forensics manager for Africa, told a briefing in Geneva, that “Bodies are littering the streets, washing back on shore and are buried under collapsed buildings and debris. In just two hours, one of my colleagues counted over 200 bodies on the beach near Derna."
It is worth noting that divers are conducting searches in the coastal waters of the city as well.
In a joint statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed to Libyans to refrain from burying the dead in mass graves.
“Some may move quickly to bury bodies, such as in mass graves, in part in an attempt to manage this distress, and sometimes because of the fear that these bodies pose a health threat,” the statement stressed.
“This approach can be detrimental to the population. Though local authorities and communities can be under immense pressure to bury the dead quickly, the consequences of mismanagement of the dead include long-lasting mental distress for family members as well as social and legal problems,” it added.
Meanwhile, the head of the Libyan National Disease Control Center, Haider al-Sayeh, on Friday, reported that at least 55 children in the northern Libyan city of Derna have been poisoned as a result of water pollution caused by the recent floods.
International aid is slowly starting to reach the port city after Storm Daniel hit the northern coast of Libya on Saturday night. As many as 20,000 people are feared to have died, The Guardian reported.
On September 10, Libya experienced heavy rainfall due to Storm Daniel, resulting in severe flooding in the eastern part of the country.