The death toll from catastrophic flooding in Derna, Libya, could reach as high as 20,000, city officials estimate, as international aid begins to arrive in the country and rescue teams plead for help recovering bodies amid growing fears of infectious disease outbreaks.
Deaths in the flood-hit city of Derna could reach between 18,000 and 20,000 people, mayor Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi told Saudi news station Al Arabiya TV on Wednesday.
More than 5,300 bodies have been recovered in Derna so far, Libyan officials said, and the death toll is expected to continue rising as recovery efforts continue.
City officials say at least 10,000 people are missing, according to Al Jazeera, though the United Nations’ aid agency estimates a potentially lower figure of at least 5,000.
At least 30,000 people in Derna have also been made homeless in the disaster, the UNs’ International Organisation for Migration said on Wednesday, with thousands more displaced in other parts of the country.
What To Watch For
The widespread death, destruction and displacement that follows disasters like flooding always stokes fears of outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly if infrastructure ensuring drinking water and sanitation is disrupted. The number of unrecovered bodies under rubble and in the water—the sea is reportedly still washing many ashore—and a search team director Lutfi al-Misrati told Al Jazeera workers need more body bags to safely store remains. Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN’s aid agency, OCHA, told the BBC Libya’s system of wells had been contaminated and warned there was a risk of waterborne disease. “People need to drink and if they start to drink contaminated water, we could see a secondary wave of disease and even death if we do not manage to stop that in its tracks,” Laerke said.