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Fears mount of surging death toll in Libya flood disaster

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DERNA: Libya was reeling Wednesday from a massive flood disaster that killed at least 2,300 people when a surge of water devastated the eastern city of Derna, leaving another 10,000 missing according to the Red Cross.

Relief missions gathered pace with Türkiye, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates among the first nations to rush aid to the war-scarred country, and the UN pledging $10 million in support for survivors, including more than 30,000 people left homeless.

The wall of water ripped away entire buildings, vehicles and the people inside them. Many were swept out into the Mediterranean Sea, with bodies later washing up on beaches littered with debris and car wrecks.

Traumatised survivors have dug through the mud-caked ruins of shattered buildings to recover victims' bodies, scores of which were lying wrapped in blankets out in the open before being buried in mass graves.

The confirmed death toll in the politically fractured North African country reached 2,300 by Tuesday afternoon, but some regional officials were quoted as giving figures more than twice as high.

Another 10,000 people were still missing, said Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"The death toll is huge and might reach thousands," Ramadan said, adding that the organisation had independent sources saying that "the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far".

Media reports quoted an interior ministry spokesman of the eastern-based government as saying "more than 5,200" people had died in Derna.

The city, a 300-kilometre drive east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by a riverbed that is usually dry in summer, but which became a raging torrent that also destroyed several bridges.

Mudslides and flooding also hit nearby areas of eastern Libya where, aid group the Norwegian Refugee Council said, "entire villages have been overwhelmed by the floods and the death toll continues to rise".

Rescue teams from Türkiye have arrived in eastern Libya, authorities said, and Algeria, France, Italy, Qatar and Tunisia also pledged to help.

The United Arab Emirates sent two aid planes carrying 150 tonnes of food, relief and medical supplies.

The EU said assistance from Germany, Romania and Finland had been dispatched to Libya, including food, water tanks, tents and blankets as well as hospital tents and power generators.

A Kuwaiti flight took off Wednesday with 40 tonnes of supplies, and Jordan sent a military plane loaded with food parcels, tents, blankets and mattresses. — AFP

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