Up to 20,000 people are feared dead after a torrent of water ripped through the Libyan city of Derna as people slept this week, its mayor has said.
A deluge of rainfall from Mediterranean storm Daniel caused two dams to collapse, sending waves more than 20 feet high sweeping through the port city in the country’s east.
“The situation is very large and surprising for the city of Derna. We were not able to confront it with our capabilities that preceded the storm and the torrent,” said Mayor Abdel Moneim Al-Ghaithi.
“Even if the capabilities were great and advanced, the scene we saw could not be confronted by us,” he told Sky News Arabia on Wednesday night. The death toll in the city could ultimately exceed 20,000, he said, based on estimates of those living in areas that were swept away.
Previous estimates from aid agencies and government officials put the number of deaths at more than 5,000, with 10,000 people still missing.
A precise tally is incredibly difficult given the level of devastation and limited infrastructure in the area, with bodies still washing up on the shore and burials being held in mass graves.
If confirmed, an estimated death toll of over 20,000 would mean that around a fifth of the city’s population has been killed.