“We heard a big explosion, then the water was everywhere, wiping everything away in the blink of an eye,” said survivors from the Libyan city of Derna about the flood disaster caused by the Mediterranean storm “Daniel”, which hit the east of the country in sunday dawn
At least 6,000 people have been killed and thousands more remain missing in weekend flooding in eastern Libya, officials said.
Torrential rains affected several regions, especially the cities of Derna, Benghazi, Al-Bayda, Al-Marj and Susa.
“Everything happened in the blink of an eye,” Farhat Boudhahab, a survivor, told Anadolu, describing the flood disaster.
“The height of the buildings, the strength of the foundations and their location in the valley areas of the city were the factors that determined our chances of survival,” says Boudhahab.
“Citizens who lived in tall buildings with strong foundations were able to survive,” he emphasizes.
He explained that “residents had to climb to the top of their residential buildings until the raging waters receded.”
“Residents of buildings located in high areas in Derna also survived,” he added.
“I live in a two-story house in a relatively low-lying area,” Boudhahab said, noting that “most of the houses in my neighborhood were single-story houses.”
“The flood waters were higher than that,” says Boudhahab.
– “I was shocked when I saw the bodies of my neighbors”
“I believe I survived by the grace of God and my skill in architecture,” Boudhahab told Anadolu.
“I woke up to the sound of a big explosion and I immediately realized that the Derna dam had burst because the rain was heavy and we have heard similar stories about that dam,” he continues.
“Moments later, the water was flooding my house, where I have been staying alone for weeks. My children are with their mother, who moved to live with her family in the city of Sirte. They would have died in a different situation”, stressed Boudhahab.
He recounts that when his house was flooded, he climbed to the roof and hid inside a concrete water tank he had built years ago to collect rainwater.
Boudhehab stayed in the water tank after closing it tightly, until the water was withdrawn in the morning.
“I was shocked to see the bodies of my neighbors and the destruction that occurred,” he says, adding: “I had very mixed feelings, I was happy for my survival but deeply saddened by the death and destruction around me.”
– Unexpected disaster
The eastern Libyan city of Derna was hit hardest by the devastating floods caused by Storm Daniel, leaving thousands dead.
The tragedy in Derna was aggravated by the collapse of two dams, dragging large parts of the coastal city towards the sea.
Adel Al-Shafi’i, another survivor in Derna, said: “We did not expect this level of destruction.”
“All indicators said that the city of Benghazi would be hit hardest by the storm,” he added.
“Warnings were limited to Benghazi, where rescue teams were formed, a state of emergency was declared and a curfew was imposed on the city,” explains Al-Shafi’i.
“Therefore, we did not care much about Derna. Not only that, but at 12:00 at night I called my brother who lives in Benghazi and asked him to come to Derna as it is safer. But he couldn’t make it because of the curfew”, Al-Shafi’i confesses.
“However, things took a strange turn as Benghazi was safer because the storm bypassed it to move to the rest of the cities in the east,” Al-Shafi’i said.
– “An unprecedented disaster”
Al-Shafi’i detailed the first moments of what happened in Derna, saying: “The first dam burst, then the second, and the valley of Derna was flooded with a force we have never seen before, sweeping away everything on the way”.
“In just a few moments, the water engulfed entire six-story residential buildings,” he added.
“Fortunately, for my family and I, we live in an elevated area that was less affected by floodwaters,” Al-Shafi’i told Anadolu.
Al-Shafi’i, who did not leave Derna, said that the situation in the city three days after the floods “is still catastrophic”.
“Security forces evacuated the city because the crowd was hindering rescue operations and finding bodies, especially at sea, where entire buildings were swept away with all their inhabitants,” Al-Shafi’i said.
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