AT LEAST 2,000 people are reported dead and thousands more are missing after a catastrophic flood ripped through Libya.
A major dam collapse sent a 10ft deep torrent raging through the eastern city of Derna, where “entire neighbourhoods” were swept out to sea.
It was the second major disaster to strike North Africa in three days following the devastating earthquake in Morocco.
Ahmed Mismari, the spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA) that controls eastern Libya, put the number of missing at 5,000 to 6,000
He said in a televised news conference that the disaster came after dams above Derna had collapsed, “sweeping whole neighbourhoods with their residents into the sea”.
Osama Hamad, the head of a parallel eastern-based administration, told local television that more than 2,000 were dead and thousands more missing.
The figures remain an estimate as they could not be confirmed yet, Reuters reports.
Libya is politically divided between east and west and public services have crumbled since a 2011 Nato-backed uprising that prompted years of conflict.
The internationally-recognised government in Tripoli does not control eastern areas.
In Tripoli, the three-person Presidential Council which functions as head of state in the divided country asked the international community to help.
“We call on brotherly and friendly countries and international organisations to provide assistance,” it said.
After pummelling Greece last week, Storm Daniel swept in over the Mediterranean on Sunday, swamping roads and destroying buildings in Derna, and hitting other settlements along the coast, including Libya’s second biggest city of Benghazi.
Videos of Derna showed a wide torrent running through the city centre where a far narrower waterway had previously flowed.
The ruins of collapsed buildings stood on either side.
Eastern Libya’s Almostkbal TV broadcast footage that showed people stranded on the roofs of their vehicles calling for help and waters washing away cars.
“The missing are in the thousands, and the dead exceed 2,000,” Osama Hamad told al-Masar TV.
“Entire neighbourhoods in Derna have disappeared, along with their residents swept away by water.”
Derna resident Saleh al-Obaidi said he had managed to flee with his family, though houses in a valley near the city had collapsed.
“People were asleep and woke up and found their homes surrounded by water,” he told Reuters.
Ahmed Mohamed, another resident, said: “We were asleep, and when we woke up, we found water besieging the house.
“We are inside and trying to get out.”
Witnesses said the water level had reached ten feet.
West of Derna, images showed a collapsed road between the port town of Sousse and Shahat, home to the Greek-founded and Unesco-listed archaeological site Cyrene.
Libya’s eastern-based parliament declared three days of mourning.
Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, prime minister of the interim government in Tripoli, also declared three days of mourning in all the affected cities, calling them “disaster areas”.
Four major oil ports in Libya – Ras Lanuf, Zueitina, Brega and Es Sidra – were closed from Saturday evening for three days, two oil engineers told Reuters.
Search-and-rescue operations were ongoing, witnesses said. Authorities declared a state of extreme emergency, closing schools and stores and imposing a curfew.
In Tripoli, the interim government directed all state agencies to “immediately deal” with the damage and floods in eastern cities, but the administration has no sway in the east.
However, Dbeibah’s government works closely with the Central Bank of Libya, which disburses funds to government departments across the country.
The United Nations in Libya said it was following the storm closely and would “provide urgent relief assistance in support of response efforts at local and national levels”.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani pledged to send aid to the affected area in eastern Libya.
The flood came just two days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated Morocco – making it one of the deadliest disasters the country has seen for over 120 years.
More than 2,900 people are dead and 2,059 are injured after the monster quake struck just after 11pm local time on Friday.
People were sent fleeing in terror from buildings, and those who could not escape were killed as houses collapsed.