Libya floods: The bodies left unrecognizable by disaster
In an eastern Libyan city called Derna, within the confines of a hospital parking area, a masked doctor stoops over a black plastic body bag and delicately adjusts the position of the man inside. “Initially, we establish the person’s age, gender, and height,” he explains.
He goes on to mention, “He’s currently in the putrefaction stage due to being in the water.”
This task, albeit profoundly distressing, has become one of the most critical responsibilities in this locale, given the numerous victims. The man’s appearance has been utterly transformed after spending a week at sea before his lifeless body washed ashore that very morning.
With expertise, gentle hands meticulously search for any distinctive features or markings, all while collecting a DNA sample—a crucial step in case there are surviving relatives seeking to identify him.
Official statistics indicate that over 10,000 individuals are still officially listed as missing, according to data from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Red Crescent has also been tracking its own figures.
The UN reports a death toll of approximately 11,300 so far, though the ultimate count remains uncertain. However, one undeniable fact is the immense magnitude of this catastrophe.
Mohammed Miftah carries the heavy burden of knowing in his heart that his family is among the victims. Upon visiting his sister and her husband’s home after the floods, he found it had been swept away entirely.
Since then, he has received no word from them. He shares a video he captured as the floodwaters surged, with murky water flooding through his front door.
A car is carried on the current and wedges into the open space, blocking it completely.
“I saw cars coming down and I came out running,” he recalls.
“I thought that was it, that I was going to die. We could see our neighbors waving flashlights. In just a few moments, the lights went out, and they had disappeared.
“That was the hardest thing.”
As international aid begins to arrive in earnest, the Health Minister of Libya’s eastern government has announced that four Greek rescue workers were killed in an accident on the road to Derna.
Fifteen more were injured. They were on their way to join teams already on the ground from France and Italy.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have also flown in tons of extra supplies.
The next step is making sure they’re used properly and fairly.
Abdullah Bathily, the Head of the UN’s International Support Mission in Libya, told BBC Arabic the country now needs to create a transparent mechanism to manage all of its international donations.
It’s a concern borne from the well-known challenges of coordinating between the government in Tripoli which is internationally recognized, and the eastern Libyan government, which isn’t.
Back in the center of Derna, there are some points of light amid the mud and debris that has enveloped this city.
On one street corner, hundreds of colorful clothes lie scattered in piles.
Across the road, a huge queue forms as fuel is handed out to survivors.
As the donations keep coming, one man arrives and places a box of warm scarves at the feet of an elderly woman.
He kisses her head tenderly, as she smiles and begins to choose one.
These are Libyans helping Libyans in one of their worst moments of crisis.