Thousands of homeless residents in eastern Libya face urgent needs for clean water, food, and essential supplies, with a growing risk of cholera, diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition, warns the United Nations. The UN cautioned that disease outbreaks could lead to a “second devastating crisis” just a week after a massive flash flood devastated the coastal city of Derna, resulting in thousands of fatalities.
Local authorities, aid organizations, and the World Health Organization express deep concern about the potential outbreak of diseases, particularly due to contaminated water sources and inadequate sanitation facilities.
The flash flood, which claimed nearly 3,300 lives and left thousands missing, occurred after Libya, already scarred by war, was struck by the hurricane-strength Storm Daniel on September 10. Tens of thousands of traumatized residents now find themselves homeless and in desperate need of clean water, food, and basic supplies, all while facing an increasing risk of cholera, diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition, according to UN agencies.
The Libyan disease control center has prohibited citizens in the disaster zone from consuming water from local sources, citing contamination concerns. Meanwhile, rescue teams from various European and Arab nations continue their grim search for bodies amidst the mud-covered wreckage of buildings, crushed cars, and uprooted trees. The flood submerged a densely populated area of six square kilometers in Derna, causing significant damage to 1,500 buildings, of which 891 were completely destroyed, as reported by the Tripoli government based on satellite imagery.
Abdul Wahab Al Masouri, a grieving Derna resident, expressed his sorrow for the state of his city, saying, “We grew up here, we were raised here… But we’ve come to hate this place, we’ve come to hate what it has become. The buildings, the neighborhood, the villagers, the sheikhs… the wadi has returned to the state it was 1,000 years ago. People live in caves, the city looks dead, barren, there is no life left.”
Bulldozers are working to clear roads covered in thick mud, including at a mosque, while a foul odor fills the air. Amid the chaos, the true death toll remains unknown, with numerous individuals swept into the sea.
Soldier Hamza Al Khafifi described the distressing discovery of unclothed bodies washing up on the coastline, with “bodies stuck between rocks.”
Othman Abdeljalil, the health minister of the eastern administration of the divided country, has reported 3,283 confirmed deaths in Derna. However, Libyan officials and humanitarian groups have cautioned that the final toll could be considerably higher, with thousands still unaccounted for.
Emergency response teams and aid have been mobilized from countries including Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Tragically, a Greek rescue team lost five members in a collision with a car carrying a Libyan family on the road from Benghazi to Derna, resulting in the deaths of three family members as well.
Egypt has deployed the “Gamal Abdel Nasser” Mistral helicopter carrier to the Tobruk military base in eastern Libya, equipped with over 100 beds, to serve as a field hospital, according to Egyptian media reports. France has also established a field hospital in Derna.
The United Nations, which has initiated an emergency appeal for over $71 million, announced on Monday that nine of its agencies are delivering aid and support to survivors while working to prevent the spread of diseases.