Floods in Libya wreak havoc in Derna, where many remain missing

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Emergency personnel in Derna, Libya, are working against the clock to find the thousands of people still unaccounted for following a flash flood that has been compared to a tsunami.

Derna has been reduced to a nightmare wasteland by the flood, which was caused by a surge of water from two upstream dams. Entire city blocks have been destroyed, and an undetermined number of people have been washed into the Mediterranean.

The wounds of this natural calamity can now be seen in the central neighborhoods on both sides of the river, which generally runs dry during this time of year, and resemble the route of destruction left by a massive steamroller. Some of the uprooted trees, buildings, and automobiles are now resting on the port’s breakwaters.

One man recalled the horrific experience of being swept away with his mother, and survivors recall the fear of the abrupt rise in water levels. “The water was rising with us until we got to the fourth floor, the water was up to the second floor,” he recalled.

Hundreds of corpse bags lined the mud-covered streets, waiting for mass graves as the city struggles to cope with the enormous loss. Bulldozers toil ceaselessly to remove the wreckage and sand mounds as grieving locals explore the streets covered with debris in search of missing loved ones.

The leader of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to Libya, Yann Fridez, referred to the catastrophe as “violent and brutal,” citing the loss of infrastructure and structures. While the floodwaters have begun washing dead bodies up on the shore, families are still looking for missing relatives.