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Mayor of Flooded Libyan City Says Death Toll Could Rise to 20,000

HeadlineSep 14, 2023

In Libya, the mayor of the eastern port city of Derna says up to 20,000 people have been killed by Sunday’s catastrophic floods, which were triggered by the collapse of two dams amid unprecedented rainfall. Libyan officials say the true toll may never be known, after floodwaters washed whole neighborhoods into the sea. On Tuesday, Libya’s prime minister dismissed the need for international aid, though he said Libya does need help locating the bodies of victims who were swept into the Mediterranean. 

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh: “We do not need aid, not even medication or equipment, nor doctors or ambulances. Thanks to God, we have 400 ambulances that took off. But we have a problem in retrieving the bodies from the sea.” 

Rescue workers warned of the potential spread of disease and appealed for more body bags. Many of Derna’s flood victims are being buried in mass graves. On Wednesday, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk called on Libya’s two rival governments to set aside their differences in order to coordinate relief efforts.

Volker Türk: “I call on all Libyan political actors to overcome deadlocks and divisions and to act collectively in ensuring access to relief. This is a time for unity of purpose. All those affected must receive support without regard for any affiliations.”

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