Emergency workers uncovered hundreds of bodies in the wreckage of Libya’s eastern city of Derna, and it is feared the toll could spiral, with 10,000 people still reported missing after floodwaters from Storm Daniel smashed through dams and washed away entire neighbourhoods.
Footage showed dozens of bodies covered by blankets in the yard of one hospital. Another image showed a mass grave piled with bodies. More than 1,500 corpses were collected, and half of them had been buried as of Tuesday evening, the health minister for eastern Libya said.
The destruction came to Derna and other parts of eastern Libya on Sunday night. As Storm Daniel pounded the coast, Derna residents said they heard loud explosions and realised that dams outside the city had collapsed.
Flash floods were unleashed down Wadi Derna, a river running from the mountains through the city and into the sea.
Outside help was only just starting to reach Derna on Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the disaster struck. The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to the coastal city of some 89,000.
The deputy mayor of Derna, Ahmed Madroud, told Al Jazeera that “at least 20 percent of the city has been destroyed.”
He said the reason behind the devastation was related to the weak infrastructure in the city and the fact that many buildings were clustered in narrow streets located close to the river.
“When the river overflowed its banks, it just took all the buildings with it, and the families that were in it,” he said.