Bodies wash ashore in Libya as devastated city races to count its dead

Thousands still missing in Derna

The eastern Libyan port city was destroyed beyond recognition when two dams burst on the Wadi Derna River during a storm this week, causing waves 23 feet high to rush through the town and into the sea.

A total of 5,300 people had been confirmed dead in the floods so far, the Ministry of the Interior of Libya’s eastern government said. But aid groups and officials have said that some 10,000 people are missing, also feared dead either beneath the wreckage of homes or lying somewhere in the floodwaters.

The staggering statistics only go so far in conveying the tragedy.

One father watched in disbelief as rescue workers pulled the limp body of his son from under rubble in Derna.

It’s a scene that is being repeated across this city and in towns across eastern Libya.

“Bodies are lying everywhere — in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings,” Hichem Abu Chkiouat, civil aviation minister in Libya’s eastern government, told Reuters.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that 25% of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed,” he said.

He said that officials had counted more than 5,300 dead so far, and warned the death toll was likely to rise and could even double given the number of missing.

The “sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies,” Chkiouat added.

Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee for The Red Cross in Libya, told France24: “The city of Derna was submerged by waves 7 meters (23 feet) high that destroyed everything in their path.”

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