The United Nations Emergency Relief Office estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are in need of urgent assistance following the devastating floods in Libya. In an emergency appeal, the UN Humanitarian Office called for emergency aid worth $71.4 million (around €67 million) “to meet the urgent needs of 250,000 most affected Libyans.” The situation in the northeast of the country is critical.

Almost 900,000 people in five provinces of the civil war country lived in areas that were affected “directly and to varying degrees” by storm “Daniel” and the flash floods it triggered.

The number of deaths could rise dramatically. The situation in the port city of Darna is particularly terrible. “We expect a very high number of victims. Based on the destroyed districts in the city of Darna, there could be 18,000 to 20,000 dead,” Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Gheithy told the Arabic television channel Al-Arabija. The storm hit the North African country on Sunday. Two dams burst near Darna and entire quarters of the city, which has a population of 100,000, were washed into the sea.

Desperate calls for more help

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors in the rubble days after the accident. But the hope of finding people alive is dwindling by the hour. Recovered victims were buried in body bags in mass graves. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 30,000 people have become homeless in Darna alone. 10,000 people have been missing since Monday, but it is unclear how many of them have been found dead or alive since then.

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UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said: “Entire neighborhoods have disappeared from the map.” The situation is “shocking and heartbreaking.” The most urgent task now is to prevent the spread of diseases. According to the head of the Libya delegation to the International Red Cross, Yann Fridez, “it could take many months, perhaps years, for local residents to recover from this huge level of destruction.”

Eyewitnesses on site reported to the German Press Agency that Darna was still “full of corpses.” Help is urgently needed. The east of the city in particular is further cut off from the rest. In some cases, communication connections were completely lost.

Rescue is difficult

The situation on site presents rescue teams with enormous challenges. Access roads were completely washed away and central bridges were buried under masses of mud. But in the midst of the catastrophe, there are always individual rays of hope. After around 96 hours, a 20-year-old was rescued from the rubble, as the Libyan television al-Masar reported.

Numerous countries have offered help. A first aid delivery from the Technical Relief Agency (THW) for the flood area has now arrived in Libya. Two Bundeswehr aircraft with a total of 30 tons of THW relief supplies on board landed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday evening, said a THW spokesman. The flights from the Bundeswehr base in Wunstorf in Lower Saxony were accompanied by two THW logisticians who ensured that the delivery was properly handed over to the local authorities.

Specifically, 100 tents with lighting, 1,000 camp beds, 1,000 blankets, 1,000 sleeping mats, 1,000 water filters and 80 power generators were to be brought to the disaster area. The relief goods filled eight trucks and are worth around half a million euros, according to the THW. The delivery takes place at the request and with financing of the Foreign Office and on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders also sent an emergency team. It consists of logisticians and medical staff. You should also bring emergency equipment for treating the injured and body bags. Further help comes from the neighboring countries of Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria as well as Turkey, among others. France, the Netherlands and Italy also offered support. The United Nations announced emergency aid worth ten million dollars.

Libya’s vulnerability becomes clear

Observers blame the authorities for the extent of the disaster in the civil war country. This also shows how difficult the situation is for rescue teams and journalists on site, writes Libya expert Wolfram Lacher on the X platform (formerly Twitter).

Since the fall of long-time ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, numerous conflicting parties have been fighting for influence. Currently, two hostile governments – one based in the East, the other based in the West – are fighting for power. All diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the civil war, which continues to this day, have so far failed. Infrastructure measures were delayed for decades.

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbaiba of the government in the west accused the rival government in the east on Thursday of failing to sign maintenance contracts for the two dams despite funding being made available.

Observers also fear that anger over the disaster could spill out onto the streets. “The shock, which could turn into open anger in the coming weeks, is similar to what triggered the uprisings in early 2011,” writes expert Jalel Harchaoui on X.

The Secretary General of the World Weather Organization, Petteri Taalas, sees the number of victims as being due to the lack of a functioning early warning system. The weather service warned of an approaching storm, but did not mention the risk posed by the old dams that later broke. The emergency services could then have carried out evacuations, Taalas had previously said. “We could have avoided most of the casualties.”