DERNA, Libya (AP) — Authorities warned Monday that a disease outbreak in northeastern Libya, where flooding has killed thousandscould create “a second devastating crisis” when adults and children fall ill from contaminated water.
In a statement, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said it was particularly concerned about water contamination and lack of sanitation after two dams collapsed during Mediterranean Storm Daniel, which sent a wall of water gushing through the eastern city of Derna on September 11. The death toll has varied, with government officials and aid agencies giving figures ranging between 4,000 and 11,000 dead.
Nine U.N. agencies responding to the disaster are working to prevent diseases from taking hold and creating another crisis in the devastated country, which is receiving 28 tons (25 metric tons) of medical supplies from the World Health Organization, the agency said. mission.
Haider al-Saeih, head of Libya’s Disease Control Center, said in televised comments Saturday that at least 150 people – 55 of them children – suffered diarrhea after drinking contaminated water in Derna.
The disaster has brought rare unity to oil-rich Libya, which has been divided between rival administrations since 2014. Both are backed by international backers and armed militias whose influence in the country has soared since a NATO-backed Arab Spring uprising toppled autocratic ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Opposing governments have deployed humanitarian teams to the port city and other affected areas, but poor coordination, difficulty getting aid to the worst-affected areas and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges, have hampered their efforts.
On Monday, protesters gathered outside the al-Shabana mosque in central Derna in a show of anger against the authorities.
Hundreds of Libyan men gathered outside and above the mosque before a man read a list of demands at the building’s entrance. The man called on the authorities to speed up the investigation into the disaster, for the UN to establish an office in Derna, for the city to be urgently rebuilt and for those affected by the flood to be compensated. When he finished, the hundreds of people gathered began to sing: “Libya, Libya, Libya.”
On Saturday, Libya’s attorney general, al-Sediq al-Sour, opened an investigation into the collapse of the two dams, built in the 1970s, as well as the allocation of maintenance funds. The mayor of Derna, Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi, was suspended pending an investigation into the disaster.
Later Monday night, the former mayor said protesters set fire to his home. He told the AP that neither he nor any of his family members were injured in the attack, but he did not provide further information.
That same night, the White House said in a statement that the United States will provide an additional $11 million in aid to local and international organizations responding to humanitarian needs.
The International Organization for Migration said Monday that around 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya, including 30,000 in Derna. Residents of the nearby cities of Benghazi and Tobruk have offered to house the displaced, while volunteers search for survivors buried under the rubble.
When the flood hit, Mraje Kdour and his three brothers managed to escape to the second floor, but his sister did not survive.
“We got very close to the ceiling. We could barely breathe,” Kdour told The Associated Press.
The health minister of Libya’s eastern government, Othman Abduljaleel, said on Sunday that his ministry had started a vaccination program “against diseases that usually occur after disasters like this,” but did not give further details.
Libya growing red has said that at least 11,300 people have died and another 10,000 are missing. After previously reporting the same death toll, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs now cites much lower figures, with around 4,000 people dead and 9,000 missing.
Abduljaleel said at least 3,338 bodies had been identified and buried as of Monday night. He did not give a figure for how many bodies had been recovered, but previously put the figure at 2,000 on Thursday.
Last week, the mayor of Derna said the death toll could reach 20,000.
Meanwhile, flooding has raised concerns about the ruins of Ceyrene, an ancient Greco-Roman city about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Derna and which is one of five Libyan UNESCO World Heritage sites.
“UNESCO is in contact with archaeologists on the ground and its satellite imaging team is also trying to establish what the damage might be,” the agency said Monday in a statement to the AP.
Jeffery reported from London. Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.