Thousands die in floods in Libya after more than a foot of rain falls in parts of the desert nation

Buildings destroyed by intense rainfall in Libya

The country of Libya is almost entirely desert. But thousands recently died there in massive floods after more than a foot of rain fell on parts of Libya in a single day. The official death toll is 5,300, but more than 25,000 people are missing and likely died. Another 7,000 are known to have been seriously injured.

Mediterranean storm Daniel caused the flooding, washing away whole neighborhoods over the weekend and sweeping hundreds of bodies out to sea.

Over 16 inches of rain fell in the northeastern city of Bayda on Sunday. The adjacent port city of Derna was flooded after the collapse of two dams. The dams had not been maintained since 2008 due to Libya’s civil war. The city has been declared a disaster zone, with electricity and communication having been cut off.

In Derna, around 20,000 people are missing and over 30,000 are homeless. The International Rescue Committee calls the flood an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the militia that controls eastern Libya, promised that rescue and relief efforts were coming. “We issued immediate instructions to use all our capabilities, provide the needed support of all urgent medical equipment, operate medical convoys and to allocate shelters to those who lost their homes. We have directed the government to form a specialized committee to assess the damage, instantly begin the reconstruction of roads to facilitate transportation, restore the electricity and to take all immediate and needed measures in that regards,” he said.

America, Italy, Turkey, Germany, and Qatar say they have sent or are about to send aid to Libya. But many roads are currently blocked or washed away, which will delay getting aid into the most devastated areas.

Some aid has begun to arrive, such as from Egypt, Libya’s eastern neighbor, but rescue efforts will likely be impeded by Libya’s internal conflict, with the nation split between two warring governments — one in the east led by General Hiftar, and the other in the west controlled by the so-called “Government of National Accord.”

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