Libyan flood survivors weigh lack of water against landmine risk

  • Searching for survivors a week after the disaster
  • The report warns of the twin dangers of water scarcity and mines
  • Volunteers from the west of divided Libya are bringing aid to the east
  • At least three Greek rescue workers killed in road accident – Minister

TERNA, Libya, Sept 17 (Reuters) – People whose homes were swept away by floods a week ago in Libya’s eastern city of Derna faced a dilemma on Sunday over whether to stay and risk infection or leave areas displaced by landmines. torrents.

Thousands of people were killed when two dams above Terna broke during a powerful storm on September 10, bringing down residential blocks that line the normally dry riverbed as people slept. Many bodies have been washed out to sea.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) put the death toll at 11,300 on Saturday from the Libyan Red Cross. However, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Cross said that “statistics are changing and the Red Cross is not responsible for this”.

OCHA spokesperson Eri Kaneko said accurate death figures were difficult to obtain as the search for bodies and survivors continued, adding that the World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed 3,922 deaths so far. The health minister of Libya’s eastern government said Sunday that 3,283 people had died.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 people have already been buried in mass graves, and aid groups have warned against the practice.

Libyan authorities have confirmed that 150 people have been poisoned by contaminated water in flooded areas. Mohamed Wanis Tajouri said he came to Terna from Benghazi on the coast with fellow medical students to carry out disinfection and sterilization work.

Epidemics occur after floods,” he said.

Sunday’s sunrise revealed a scene of silent devastation, with piles of rubble on the sides of empty roads and tangled metal wreckage, including pieces of mangled cars.

Hamad Awad sat with him on an empty street on a blanket with a bottle of water and a bed.

“I’m staying in our area trying to clean it up, trying to check who’s missing,” he said. “Thank God for giving us patience.”

Entire districts of Terna, with a population of at least 120,000, were swept away or buried in the mud. State media reported that at least 891 buildings had been destroyed in the city, where the mayor said 20,000 people may have died.

Mohamed Alnaji Bushertila, a government employee, said 48 members of his extended family were missing. Another resident said the survivors were at a loss as to what to do next.

“We don’t know anything yet, we’re hearing rumours, some are trying to convince us, others are saying you have to leave the city or stay here,” said the man, who gave his only name as Wasfi. “We have no water, no resources.”

The homeless are housed in temporary shelters, schools or the homes of relatives or friends, OCHA said.

Floodwaters had dislodged landmines and other weapons left over from years of conflict, putting thousands of displaced people at additional risk, it added.

More than 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya, according to the latest data from the International Organization for Migration, but it warned that the number could be higher.


Aid agencies have flown in emergency aid and some countries have sent supplies, although international officials say more aid is needed.

Three members of a Greek rescue team have been killed and two are missing in a road accident en route from Benghazi to Terna, the Greek armed forces said.

Earlier, the health minister of Libya’s eastern government said four members had been killed and seven others were in critical condition. Three members of a Libyan family were killed and two are in critical condition.

A French field hospital was being prepared in footage broadcast by Libya’s Al Mazar television.

“People came from all over with help, it made it easier for us, and we felt we were not alone. We were survivors,” said Hassan Awad, a resident of Derna, as civil defense personnel from Algeria searched the ruins of multi-story buildings in the city.

Pointing to a rusty power pole between two buildings, Awad told how his family survived the floods that tore through their home, submerging everything in the mud, by clinging to it.

“We saw dead bodies, bodies of neighbours, friends and loved ones,” he said. On the beach, an excavator moved broken furniture and cars, trying to find victims. Another excavator removed rubble from buildings as rescuers paused and knelt nearby to pray.

At Al Badya, west of Derna, it was treating victims from Derna as well as its own population. Doctors tried to hold back the water by building temporary dams on the street when the flood occurred, but it rose into the building.

The head of the hospital, Abdel Rahim Mazek, said that the machines in the lower level of the hospital were affected by the flood.

Elsewhere in the city, volunteers provided clothing and food.

Volunteer Abdulnabi said the group came from Ajailat, about 800 miles (1,200 km) in western Libya, separated from the east by more than a decade of conflict.

The country of 7 million has lacked a strong central government since the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and its oil wealth has been dispersed among competing factions.

Analysts said the disaster had brought some coordination between the internationally-backed administration in Tripoli in the west and the rival administration in the east, but reconstruction efforts could reopen fault lines.

Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar, Ayman Sahli and Essam Elfatori in Terna, Michael Nichols, Adam Makari, Thomas Perry and Maya Kebili in the United Nations; By Philippa Fletcher and James Oliphant; Editing: Christina Fincher, Susan Fenton, Conor Humphreys and Diane Croft

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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