The estimated number of deaths in the Libyan city of Derna after catastrophic floods could reach 20,000, based on the number of wiped-out districts, Derna’s mayor, told Al-Arabiya TV on Wednesday.
“The number [of deaths] keeps rising… it could reach 18,000 or 20,000,” Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi said.
He said this estimate was based on the scale of destruction in the eastern region, particularly as entire neighbourhoods were swept away in Derna.
Backing those numbers, the director of the medical centre of the eastern town of Al-Bayda, Abdul Rahim Mazeq, put the death toll from the floods as high as 20,000, according to comments made to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
He said that hospitals were no longer able to accommodate the bodies of the victims.
A spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls eastern Libya, Ahmed Al-Mismari, told the newspaper on Wednesday that the death toll has exceeded 7,000 – up from figures he had given to local media the previous day.
Reports have suggested that a quarter of the city of Derna – which has a population of around 100,000 – have been obliterated by the flooding.
An official with the UN’s World Health Organisation in Libya said the fatalities could reach 7,000, given the number of people still missing.
“The numbers could surprise and shock all of us,” the official, who was not authorised to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity, told AP.
The storm also killed around 170 people in other parts of eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz and Marj, the health minister said.
The dead in eastern Libya included at least 84 Egyptians, who were transferred to their home country on Wednesday. More than 70 came from one village in the southern province of Beni Suef. Libyan media also said dozens of Sudanese migrants were killed in the disaster.
The floods have also displaced at least 30,000 people in Derna, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, and several thousand others were forced to leave their homes in other eastern towns, the UN agency said.
The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to Derna, hampering the arrival of international rescue teams and humanitarian assistance.