Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple

Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple
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This handout picture released on the account of the Libyan Red Crescent on the X platform on Sept. 13, 2023, shows a general view of destruction in the wake of floods after the Mediterranean storm “Daniel” hit Libya’s eastern city of Derna. (AFP)
Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple
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This picture released by the Libyan Red Crescent on Sept. 11, 2023, shows members of their team working on opening roads engulfed in floods at an undefined location in eastern Libya. (AFP)
Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple
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This grab from a video published on the Facebook account of the Libyan Red Crescent on September 11, 2023, shows members of their team assisting drivers whose cars are engulfed in floods in Al-Bayda town in eastern Libya. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2023
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Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple

Libyan city buries thousands in mass graves after flood, while mayor says death toll could triple
  • Derna has begun burying its dead, mostly in mass graves, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel
  • More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, the minister said, while another 2,000 were still being processed

DERNA, Libya: The city of Derna has buried thousands of people in mass graves, Libyan officials said Thursday, as search teams scoured ruins left by devastating floods and the city’s mayor said that the death toll could triple.
The deluge swept away entire families on Sunday night and exposed vulnerabilities in the oil-rich country that has been mired in conflict since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.
Health officials have confirmed 5,500 deaths and say 9,000 people are still missing.

WHAT HAPPENED IN LIBYA?
Daniel, an unusually strong Mediterranean storm, caused deadly flooding in towns across eastern Libya, but the worst-hit was Derna. As the storm pounded the coast Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters washed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.
The World Meteorological Organization said earlier this week that the National Meteorological Center had issued warnings 72 hours before the flooding, notifying all governmental authorities by email and through media. It was not immediately clear whether or how those warnings were acted upon.

HOW DOES CONFLICT IN LIBYA AFFECT THE DISASTER?
The startling devastation reflected the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. Oil-rich Libya has been divided between rival governments for most of the past decade — one in the east, the other in the west — and one result has been widespread neglect of infrastructure.
The dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s and have not been maintained for years, local media reported.
The disaster brought a rare moment of unity, as government agencies across the country rushed to help the affected areas.
While the Tobruk-based government of east Libya is leading relief efforts, the Tripoli-based western government allocated the equivalent of $412 million for reconstruction in Derna and other eastern towns, and an armed group in Tripoli sent a convoy with humanitarian aid.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
Derna has begun burying its dead, mostly in mass graves, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel.
More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, the minister said, while another 2,000 were still being processed. He said most of the dead were buried in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
Abduljaleel said rescue teams were still searching wrecked buildings in the city center, and divers were combing seawater off Derna.
Untold numbers could be buried under drifts of mud and debris, including overturned cars and chunks of concrete, that rise up to four meters (13 feet) high. Rescuers have struggled to bring in heavy equipment as the floods washed out or blocked roads leading to the area.

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED?
Health authorities have put the death toll in Derna at 5,500 as of Thursday morning. The number of deaths was likely to climb as searches are continuing, and at least 9,000 people are still missing, said Ossama Ali, a spokesman for an ambulance center in eastern Libya.
“Some bodies may not be found, especially those who were swept out to sea,” he said.
Local officials suggested that the death toll could be much higher than announced. In comments to Al Arabia television, Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim Al-Ghaithi said the tally could climb to 20,000, given the number of neighborhoods that were washed out.
An official with the UN’s World Health Organization in Libya said the fatalities could reach 7,000, given the number of people who were still missing. The official was not authorized to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity.
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.

IS HELP REACHING SURVIVORS?
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. Local authorities were able to clear some routes, and over the past 48 hours humanitarian convoys have been able to enter the city.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has provided 6,000 body bags to local authorities, as well as medical, food and other supplies distributed to hard-hit communities.
International aid started to arrive earlier this week to Benghazi, 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Derna. Neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia have sent rescue teams and aid, as did Turkiye, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. The UK and German governments have also sent supplies.
President Joe Biden said the United States would send money to relief organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to provide additional support.


Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
  • Death toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Tuesday that at least 29,878 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during the war between militants and Israel.
The toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours, while 70,215 people have been wounded since the conflict began on October 7, a ministry statement said.


Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
Updated 27 February 2024
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Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
  • The rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said it launched a salvo of rockets at an Israeli air control base on Tuesday in retaliation for deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon.
Hamas ally Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the Gaza war erupted in October, but strikes have been largely restricted to the border area.
Hezbollah said it targeted the “Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers.”
It said the rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon.
Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the city of Baalbek, killing two of its fighters, security sources said. The Israeli army said it targeted Hezbollah air defenses after the group downed one of its drones.
In retaliation, Hezbollah already fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golah Heights on Monday.
Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.


Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
  • Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce

JEDDAH: A high-level Israeli delegation arrived on Monday in Qatar, where political leaders of Hamas are based, as the combatants in the Gaza war closed in on a ceasefire and hostage deal that the US says is now within reach.
The presence of both sides suggested talks were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February, when Israel rejected a Hamas proposal as “delusional.”
In public, both sides continue to blame each other. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without a permanent end to the war.
After meeting Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had embraced mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege. “We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime,” he said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said any ceasefire agreement would require “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter equipment, and rebuilding.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was up to Hamas to drop demands he described as “outlandish” and “from another planet.”
Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce to prevent a threatened assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

CAIRO: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes in the occupied West Bank early on Tuesday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
At least 400 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen.


At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
Updated 27 February 2024
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At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
  • Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta

CAIRO: A ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile just outside the Egyptian capital, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board, authorities said Monday.
The five who survived were transported to a hospital and later discharged, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement. The cause of the sinking was not made immediately clear.
The ministry allocated compensation of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (around $6,466) to each family of the deceased and 20,000 ($646) to each of the five injured.
The laborers were on their way to work at a local construction firm. It took rescue teams hours to recover the bodies, according to local media which aired live-stream videos on social media platforms showing divers searching for the dead as villagers waited on the Nile banks.
The incident took place in the town of Monshat el-Kanater in Giza, which is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Sailing along the Nile is also a favorite pastime during holidays in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt mainly because of poor maintenance and the lack of regulations.
In 2022, two people died and eight went missing after a small truck they were riding in slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile. And in 2015, 35 people died in a collision between a passenger boat and a scow on the Nile.