Flood death toll in eastern Libya reaches 5,300 with many more missing, officials say

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LONDON — The death toll from devastating floods in eastern Libya has reached 5,300, a local health official said Wednesday.

The number of deaths is expected to continue rising as search and rescue teams recover more bodies in what the United Nations has described as a “calamity of epic proportions.”

Another 10,000 people are believed to be missing and some 40,000 are displaced from their homes in the flood-hit areas, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Mediterranean storm Daniel is behind the widespread flooding in the North African nation, as it washed away entire neighborhoods over the weekend and swept bodies out to sea.

Libya’s National Center of Meteorology reported that more than 16 inches of rain fell in the northeastern city of Bayda within a 24-hour period to Sunday, according to the flood tracking website Floodlist.

The nearby port city of Derna was the worst affected following the collapse of two dams, which wiped out a quarter of the area. The city has been declared a disaster zone, with electricity and communication having been cut off, according to local officials.

In Derna alone, 6,000 people feared to be missing and more than 20,000 displaced, according to the International Rescue Committee, which described the flooding as an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, head of the powerful Libyan military faction that controls the eastern part of the divided country, confirmed in a televised address on Tuesday that rescue and relief efforts were underway.

“We issued immediate instructions to use all our capabilities, provide the needed support of all urgent medical equipment, operate medical convoys and to allocate shelters to those who lost their homes,” Haftar said. “We have directed the government to form a specialized committee to assess the damage, instantly begin the reconstruction of roads to facilitate transportation, restore the electricity and to take all immediate and needed measures in that regards.”

The United States, Germany, Italy, Iran, Qatar and Turkey are among the countries that have said they have sent or are ready to send aid to Libya. But getting aid into the affected areas has proven difficult with many roads blocked.

Some aid has started to arrive, including from Egypt, but rescue efforts have also been hampered by the current political situation in Libya, with the country split between two warring governments — one in the east and the other in the west.

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