In the wake of the devastating floods that struck Derna, Eastern Libyan authorities have requested journalists to vacate the affected city to facilitate the smooth operation of rescue teams. Hichem Abu Chkiouat, the Minister of Civil Aviation in the administration governing eastern Libya, conveyed that this decision aims to create improved conditions for the rescue teams to work efficiently.
“The large number of journalists has become an impediment to the work of rescue teams,” stated Minister Abu Chkiouat.
The recent catastrophe in Derna was triggered by the collapse of two dams during the Mediterranean storm Daniel, resulting in a massive surge of water through the city. Government sources and aid agencies have provided varying estimates of the death toll, ranging from approximately 4,000 to 11,000 lives lost.
Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of Libya’s eastern administration disclosed that authorities have divided Derna into four sections as a precautionary measure against potential disease outbreaks. This move follows protests by thousands of residents demanding the rapid reconstruction of the city.
Prime Minister Hamad stated, “Now the affected areas are completely isolated, the armed forces and the government have begun creating a buffer out of fear of the spread of diseases or epidemics,” in an interview with Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV.
In the midst of these developments, the Internet reportedly went down in the eastern region of the country.
On a concerning note, the United Nations has warned of the possibility of a disease outbreak adding to the already dire crisis in Derna. Libyan protesters gathered in central Derna for the first mass demonstration since the flooding, urging a thorough investigation into the disaster, the immediate reconstruction of the city, and other essential demands.
Former city mayor Abdel-Moneim Al-Gaithi reported that his home was set on fire by protesters on Monday evening. Public prosecutors initiated an investigation into the dam collapses and the allocation of maintenance funds for the dams. Al-Gaithi was suspended pending the investigation.
Many residents of Derna attribute the crisis to political figures, as Libya has been divided between rival administrations since 2014. Both factions receive support from international backers and armed militias, which has complicated the response to the disaster.
Despite the presence of humanitarian teams from both authorities and international organizations, the coordination of the recovery operation has faced challenges, and the distribution of aid has been uneven. There is also confusion regarding the official death toll, with varying figures released by different sources.
Bashir Omar, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, emphasized that search and rescue teams are still working to retrieve bodies from damaged buildings and the sea. While specific numbers were not provided, Omar noted that the fatalities number in the thousands.
Libya’s Red Crescent initially reported over 11,000 deaths and 10,000 missing persons, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has recently cited lower figures, indicating approximately 4,000 deaths and 9,000 individuals missing.
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Source: ARAB News