As authorities in Libya announced a three day mourning following a deadly flood disaster, a Catholic bishop in the North African country expressed the church’s closeness to the people, many of whom are injured, missing or trapped by the storm waters.
By 15th September, the authorities said the death toll had reached at least 11,300, with those deaths in the coastal city of Derna. The Libyan Red Crescent relief organisation told The Associated Press that elsewhere in the country at least 170 people had died and that at least 10,100 others remained missing.
“For the time being, we are praying and keeping all in God’s mercy,” Bishop George Bugeja, a Maltese, who is the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, told OSV News. “I am in Tripoli (Libyan capital) and the situation here is very calm (but, the) information we have is that the storm happened in Cyrenaica (region), particularly in (the city of) Derna, where there were two dams that did not manage to hold the water and broke.”
As a consequence, the bishop said, “the water that came out with mud destroyed anything that was in its way: houses, streets.” Powerful Mediterranean Storm Daniel, including catastrophic rainfall in a short time, triggered the heavy flooding in eastern parts of the country. As the storm pounded the coast on 10th September, residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed, The Associated Press reported.
Derna, an eastern port city of approximately 90,000 people, has borne the highest brunt of the flooding. Authorities said 25% of the city had been destroyed, after two broken dam waters swiped entire neighborhoods into the sea. The impact also has spread to other cities.
Picture: Members of Libyan Red Crescent Ajdabiya work in an area affected by flooding in Derna on 12th September 2023. On 2th September, the authorities estimated that over 5,100 people had died and 10,000 were reportedly missing. (OSV News photo/Libyan Red Crescent Ajdabiya via Reuters)