(OSV News) – As authorities in Libya announced three days of mourning after a flood disaster, a Catholic bishop in the North African country expressed the church’s closeness to the people, a many people were injured, lost or trapped in the storm. water.
As of September 15, officials put the death toll at about 11,300, including those deaths in the coastal city of Derna. The Libyan Red Crescent aid group told the Associated Press that elsewhere in the country at least 170 people had died and at least 10,100 others were missing.
“For now, we pray and keep everything in God’s mercy,” Bishop George Bugeja, a Maltese, who is the vicar apostolic of Tripoli, told OSV News .
“I am in Tripoli (Libyan capital) and the situation here is very calm,” he said, but “the information we have is that the storm has come in Cyrenaica (Spain), that is in ( the city of) Derna, where it was found. two walls that could not hold the water and broke.”
As a result, the bishop said, “the water that came out with the mud destroyed everything in its path: houses, roads.”
Daniel, the strong Mediterranean wind, with heavy rain in a short period of time, caused heavy flooding in the eastern parts of the country. When the storm hit the coast Sept. 10, residents said they heard loud explosions as walls collapsed outside the city, the Associated Press reported.
Derna, an eastern port city of about 90,000 people took the brunt of the flooding. Officials said that 25% of the city was destroyed, after two floods broke all the areas in the sea. The effect also spread to other cities.
“The city of Derna was engulfed by waves 7 meters (23 feet) high that destroyed everything in their path,” said Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya, told the reporter France24. “The size of a person is huge.”
Politicians and business leaders have looked at the damage caused by the global climate crisis, which continues to cause hurricanes, floods, droughts, famines and heat waves, among other disasters.
But the prolonged conflict is expected to increase the damage, as the war has made it difficult to maintain structures such as roads, walls and houses. Libya has been without a stable government since last dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. He seized power in the rich country in 1969 and ruled for four years until when he was overthrown and killed in a coup aided by the Western military.
Since 2014, when the civil war began, Libya has been divided into political and military groups. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 2020, but the political rivalry continues.
Local disaster responders continue to dig through the rubble looking for the dead.
“This is a disaster in every sense of the word,” a weeping survivor who lost 11 members of his family told a local television station as a rescue team tried to calm him down. The television station did not appear to be alive, AP reported.
On September 11, the Libyan government appealed to international humanitarian and aid organizations to send aid to the communities affected by the floods. The UN said it has strengthened support with its partners.
“At this time, our thoughts are with the thousands of people who have been affected in their communities, we stand in solidarity with all the people in Libya at this difficult time,” said the UN spokesman. Stéphane Dujarric in a press conference in New York by name. of the general secretary.
The plea for help has sparked an international outcry and calls for support, with aid groups – including those from the Catholic Church – preparing to respond to the flood disaster.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said it was deeply saddened to hear of the powerful earthquake in Morocco and the flooding in Libya, which claimed lives. .
Ciaran Donnelly, senior vice president for crisis response, recovery and development at the International Rescue Committee, said the organization would increase aid after conducting an assessment with other companies.
However, the official said that major problems with downed phones and heavy destruction will hamper the rescue efforts.
“This disaster shows the urgent need for international attention and assistance and for climate action. The situation in Libya continues to deteriorate due to years of conflict and instability. , compounded by the effects of climate change,” Donnelly said in a news release.
According to the official, all over the world, these extreme events are often changed in large scale, making it more difficult for communities to cope and rebuild, especially in the affected areas.
“We must remember that Libya is not a country in crisis; it is a gateway for people moving to Europe,” he said.
The flooding in Libya that comes a week after the start of the United States Trade Conference in Nairobi has renewed the urgency to solve the international crisis.
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Frederick Nzwili writes for OSV News from Nairobi, Kenya.
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