TRIPOLI, Libya - In a heartbreaking turn of events, three courageous Libyan Red Crescent volunteers lost their lives while selflessly trying to save others during the catastrophic floods that struck northeastern Libya last weekend. The global Red Cross community says it mourns their loss.
The disaster also left several Red Crescent volunteers missing and others injured, further highlighting the perilous conditions faced by those who dedicate themselves to humanitarian efforts in the midst of natural disasters.
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), expressed heartfelt condolences, saying, "We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those affected by this disaster, including three brave Libyan Red Crescent volunteers who lost their lives during rescue operations. We are faced with an acute and unprecedented situation. International solidarity and support are crucial for the ongoing operations and for preventing a second wave of crisis related to disease and further distress."
The Red Cross group has put the death toll at 11,300. Secretary-General of the Libyan Red Crescent, Marie-el-Drese, says another 10,100 people are reported missing.
The storm has caused widespread destruction, leaving thousands of people missing and placing immense strain on an already fragile infrastructure. Nevertheless, Libyan Red Crescent volunteers were among the first responders on the scene, aiding in evacuations and providing crucial first aid.
Gilles Carbonnier, Vice-President of the ICRC, emphasized the severity of the situation, stating, "The situation in eastern Libya is extremely dire. Hundreds and hundreds of people may have died, thousands more are affected, people are missing. The emergency now is to save lives and provide first aid for all the victims of this terrible flooding."
The affected region, located along the Mediterranean coast, suffered the most devastating impact in the city of Derna, home to approximately 100,000 residents. Reports indicate entire neighborhoods have been obliterated, hospitals are non-operational, and critical infrastructure such as roadways, communications, and power lines have been severely damaged or disrupted.
The collapse of two dams in Derna exacerbated the crisis, with the force of the rushing waters dislodging entire high-rise buildings, some towering 11 floors, and carrying them into the sea.
Numerous other towns and villages, including Benghazi, Tobruk, Toukra, Talmeitha, Almarj, Taknes, al-Owailia, Bayada, Albayda, Shahhat, and Sousa, have also been significantly affected. The exact number of affected families and casualties remains unconfirmed, but initial estimates suggest a tragic loss of thousands of lives, with many thousands more missing and homeless. The challenging task of reaching the affected area remains the primary obstacle to delivering critical aid.
Libyan Red Crescent teams say they are tirelessly focused on aiding survivors, with top priorities including providing immediate first aid, offering care and support, searching for missing individuals, and reuniting families. Search and rescue operations continue, with ICRC teams on the ground in Libya assisting in these efforts while providing essential supplies such as medicine, food, and non-food items to flood-affected families.
The IFRC says it has identified key needs, including emergency shelter kits, psychosocial support for survivors, immediate medical assistance, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, ready-to-eat meals, and non-food items such as hygiene kits, cooking utensils, clothing, and flashlights. Meeting these basic needs is essential to restoring a sense of normalcy to the affected communities.
Libya, already grappling with years of ongoing conflict and a lack of unified government, faces additional challenges in coordinating rescue missions and international aid delivery.