Libya floods: Europe promises help, with thousands dead and missing

Extreme rainfall causes massive destruction in North African country.

Libya floods: Europe promises help, with thousands dead and missing

Ten thousand people are missing and more than 2,000 are estimated to be dead in Libya, after a storm caused unprecedented flooding in the country’s northeastern region.

Storm Daniel swept through the northeast of Libya over the weekend, bringing extreme rainfall and inundating several cities in its wake, including Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Soussa and parts of Benghazi.

In the eastern coastal city of Derna, entire neighborhoods disappeared and hundreds of people are estimated to be dead after the rain caused the collapse of two dams, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Italy and France are among the European countries to have pledged aid and assistance, amid death and destruction on a catastrophic scale in the North African country, which has been the point of origin for many crossings by undocumented migrants trying to enter Europe.

Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, said that about 10,000 people are missing and that the death toll is “huge,” possibly reaching 2,000.

“Thousands of people have lost their lives, thousands of people have lost their homes and thousands of families are stranded or lost,” Ramadan said Tuesday during a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

He said the situation is “as devastating as the situation in Morocco,” where the deadliest earthquake in more than six decades killed more than 2,800 people at the weekend.

“Our humanitarian needs are huge and much beyond the abilities of the Libyan Red Crescent and the ability of the government,” Ramadan said. “That is why the government in the east has issued an international appeal for support.”

Libya, which is politically divided between the U.N.-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in the west and the Libyan National Army in the east, has appealed to the international community, asking for humanitarian aid and several countries have promised to support.

Italy has activated its Civil Protection Department and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Tuesday an assessment team was already on its way to Libya.

Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokesperson for France’s foreign affairs ministry, said Paris “is ready to respond to requests that will be made by the Libyan authorities.

“We are getting supplies ready to provide emergency aid to the affected populations, in support of Libyan efforts on the ground and in coordination with the United Nations,” she added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is in contact with the U.N. and other partners about “possible help.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU is “following the situation closely and stands ready to provide support,” while Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her condolences to the people of Libya.

Other countries, including Egypt, Qatar, Iran and Turkey also said they would send aid.

Over the past week, Storm Daniel has swept across the Mediterranean, causing devastation in Libya, Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.

Clea Caulcutt contributed reporting.