Devastation Strikes Derna: After a terrible flood hit the center of Derna, Libya, the people there had to dig through the wreckage to find their loved ones. On that fatal Sunday night, a strong storm broke dams, which let a flood of water rush down the city’s seasonal riverbank and cut through the city. Families slept in multi-story buildings when a violent rainstorm swept them into the rough sea.
Even though the official death toll numbers aren’t always the same, they all paint a grim picture, with thousands of confirmed deaths and thousands more on a scary list of the missing. Mayor Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi of Derna worries that the final death toll could be as high as 18,000 to 20,000, which is shocking. It is because there has been so much damage.
A palpable fear hangs over the horrifying scenes: the fear that the many bodies tangled in the rubble and submerged in the murky water are signs of an upcoming epidemic. As officials deal with the scary chance of disease outbreaks, it becomes clear that they need teams that know how to find bodies.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) put a bad light on the accident by saying that many lives could have been saved if Libya had a working weather service. With the ability to send timely tips, this kind of service could have made it easier for people to leave, which would have stopped many of the bad things that have happened.
Since the disaster, Usama Al Husadi, a 52-year-old driver, has not stopped looking for his wife and five children. In his search, he has been to hospitals and schools, but his pain hasn’t gone away. When he calls his wife’s number, all he hears is quiet, which makes him even more desperate. At least 50 people in his big family have died, a sad reminder of how bad the disaster has been.
Wali Eddin Mohamed Adam, who works at a brick plant in Sudan and is 24 years old, saw the chaos that night. When he woke up, the rain was so loud that he ran to the city’s center, where he found it destroyed. Nine of his coworkers were killed, and the cruel valley waters took away the families of about 15 others.
Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar have all sent teams to help. Turkey sent a ship with enough supplies to set up two field hospitals, Italy sent three planes with goods and people on board, and two navy boats and two ships. But it’s still hard to help people because Derna’s port is so full of trash that it’s hard to get through.
The political situation in Libya is a mess, which makes the tragedy even worse. Since the bad things in 2011, a country with 7 million people constantly at war hasn’t had a strong government and has been suffering. In the west, Tripoli is run by the Government of National Unity (GNU), which is known all over the world. A different government is in place in the east, where Khalifa Haftar controls the Libyan National Army. Because of these differences, it has been harder to work together and help people after the accident, which has made things worse.
If you are high up and look down on Derna, you can see how bad the harm is. The city center used to be full of people, but now it seems like a big, flat, empty circle. The broken wall used to keep the city safe, but now it’s a sad reminder of how strong nature can be. The wadi, a dry stream in the desert, is now just a trickle, a memory of the vital rivers that used to flow through it.
Things are spread out on the shores below frighteningly, showing how lives have been changed for good. The water is rising because clothes, toys, furniture, shoes, and parts of houses are getting wet. The streets are full of downed trees and hundreds of cars and trucks that have been wrecked. They are also very muddy. Many vehicles are on their sides, and some are even sitting on the roofs of buildings that have been destroyed up to the second floor.
There are stories of people who kept going through the sadness and damage. Engineer Mohamed Mohsen Bujmila, who is 41 years old, talks about his learning. He and his wife survived, but his sister, her husband, and their son all died. He found the dead bodies of two strangers in his apartment, which was a scary reminder of how random the accident was.
An Egyptian search-and-rescue team is working hard to find the body of Bujmila’s friend as he talks. It’s a sad moment that shows how much Derna has lost and how miserable everyone is.