Before and after satellite images of Libyan floods reveal the scale of devastation in Derna, where thousands of corpses have been found after whole neighbourhoods were washed away

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  • 10,000 people are still missing and 5,300 confirmed dead after the floods, with the death toll expected to rise

Catastrophic floods have washed away entire neighbourhoods in Libya, satellite images have shown, as 5,300 people have been confirmed dead and thousands of bodies have been found in the eastern city of Derna.

At least 10,000 people are still missing, many of whom are thought to have been swept out to sea by the ‘tsunami-like’ floods, which swept away buildings along with their residents.

Before and after pictures reveal the utter decimation of Derna and the surrounding areas after a powerful storm caused dams to burst, unleashing a torrent of water that has devastated a quarter or more of the Mediterranean city.

Pictures have also shown the horrifying situation being faced by rescue workers on the ground, with Libyan Red Crescent volunteers seen picking the body of a young child out of the rubble watched by his heartbroken father.

Mass graves are now being dug, with 2,000 corpses confirmed to have been collected and the death toll expected to rise by the hour as searches of destroyed buildings and the coastline enter their third day. 

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Before and after pictures show the devastation caused by the floods to the Mediterranean city

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An aerial view of a dam on the southern edge of the city of Derna before and after it burst during the flash floods, triggered by Storm Daniel

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Farmland was completely swamped by the floods near the town of Marj on the outskirts of Derna, with homes and crops destroyed

Swathes of eastern Libya have been affected by the huge floods, with satellite pictures laying bare the extent of the damage.

As the storm pounded the coast on Sunday night, Derna residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed.

Floodwaters washed down Wadi Derna, a river running from the mountains through the city and into the sea.

The coastal city, home to around 90,000 people, is usually protected from surges of the Wadi Derna river but the burst dams saw water rush through.

Aerial pictures of the port show how buildings were completely washed away, with the river running through completely bursting its banks.

What had been a relatively narrow waterway through the city centre is now several times wider, with all the buildings that had run along it gone.

Extensive damage, with buildings missing, is also clearly visible in other parts of the city where flood waters broke out from the waterway.

The flood unleashed enormous destruction, flipping and mangling cars and leaving Derna’s streets covered in rubble, mud and debris.

The town of Marj near the city was also laid to waste, with before and after pictures showing farmland destroyed and still submerged by the floodwaters. 

The severe damage caused to one of the dams is also apparent from before and after pictures, with the surrounding countryside completely destroyed much like the settlements below. 

Members of Libyan Red Crescent Ajdabiya work in an area affected by flooding. The flood unleashed enormous destruction, leaving Derna's streets covered in rubble, mud and debris

Members of Libyan Red Crescent Ajdabiya work in an area affected by flooding. The flood unleashed enormous destruction, leaving Derna’s streets covered in rubble, mud and debris

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers were pictured picking a young child out of the rubble
The heartbroken father of a child whose body was recovered from under the rubble by Libyan Red Crescent volunteers

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers were pictured picking a young child out of the rubble as his heartbroken father watched on

Buildings in Derna have been ripped apart in the disaster, with pictures from the aftermath showing wreckage strewn through the streets

Buildings in Derna have been ripped apart in the disaster, with pictures from the aftermath showing wreckage strewn through the streets

The floodwater washed away whole structures and turned the streets into mud in Derna. Mangled cars are among the wreckage left in its wake

The floodwater washed away whole structures and turned the streets into mud in Derna. Mangled cars are among the wreckage left in its wake

Body bags have been laid out in the street in Derna, eastern Libya. Thousands are so far confirmed dead in the floods

Body bags have been laid out in the street in Derna, eastern Libya. Thousands are so far confirmed dead in the floods

Bodies are being laid out for people to identify their relatives before being buried

Bodies are being laid out for people to identify their relatives before being buried

A flooded road in Derna. Car wheels and other debris are strewn across a wrecked building

A flooded road in Derna. Car wheels and other debris are strewn across a wrecked building

Cars washed out of the city to the shoreline. Bodies have been recovered from the sea

Cars washed out of the city to the shoreline. Bodies have been recovered from the sea

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya said that at least 30,000 individuals have been displaced by the disaster in Derna alone.

One Derna resident, Mustafa Salem, said he had so far lost 30 members of his family. 

Aid convoys and trucks carrying bulldozers were headed towards the city on Wednesday. 

Bodies have been laid out in hospital corridors so people could identify missing relatives as more dead are being brought in. 

A resident looks at the pile of damaged cars marooned on the shoreline in Derna after a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit

A resident looks at the pile of damaged cars marooned on the shoreline in Derna after a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit

Men carry supplies through the ruins of the city, with debris across the streets following the powerful storm and flooding this week

Men carry supplies through the ruins of the city, with debris across the streets following the powerful storm and flooding this week

Rural areas outside the city were also hit hard. Cars were flipped and farmland destroyed, pictures of the aftermath show

Rural areas outside the city were also hit hard. Cars were flipped and farmland destroyed, pictures of the aftermath show

A hospital director said on Monday 1,700 bodies had been counted at his hospital, and that 500 more had been buried in another part of the city.

Rescue operations are complicated by Libya being politically fractured.

The internationally recognised Government of National Unity (GNU) is based in Tripoli, in the west. 

Derna is in an eastern area where a parallel administration operates, and where control is wielded by commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

A rescuer stands in high floodwater next to a completely submerged car. It is three days since the devastating floods, which hit eastern Libya with the most force

A rescuer stands in high floodwater next to a completely submerged car. It is three days since the devastating floods, which hit eastern Libya with the most force

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers take part in a rescue operation, in the aftermath of a powerful storm and heavy rainfall that hit Libya

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers take part in a rescue operation, in the aftermath of a powerful storm and heavy rainfall that hit Libya

A relief aircraft of Emirates Red Crescent landing in Libya's eastern second city of Benghazi carrying water vessels, as reports have said that bodies have been found out to sea

A relief aircraft of Emirates Red Crescent landing in Libya’s eastern second city of Benghazi carrying water vessels, as reports have said that bodies have been found out to sea

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers wade through high waters as they take part in a rescue operation

Libyan Red Crescent volunteers wade through high waters as they take part in a rescue operation

Libya’s Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the Tripoli-based government, said on Tuesday the floods were an unprecedented catastrophe. 

Libya’s Presidential Council head Mohammed al-Menfi has called for national unity.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said emergency response teams had been mobilised to help on the ground. Governments including Qatar and Turkey have rushed aid to Libya.

NGO Islamic relief said in a statement: ‘North Africa has suffered two devastating disasters in just a few days following the earthquake in Morocco, where Islamic Relief has sent an emergency response team.’ 




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