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Aid arrives in flood-hit Libya but hopes fade for survivors

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DERNA: Shipments of international aid began to arrive in Libya on Saturday, offering a lifeline to thousands despite dwindling hopes of finding more survivors days after deadly flash floods.

Sunday's floods submerged the port city of Derna, washing thousands of people and homes out to sea after two upstream dams burst under the pressure of torrential rains triggered by a hurricane-strength storm.

The World Health Organization said "the bodies of 3,958 people have been recovered and identified", with 9,000 more still missing, as it announced 29 tonnes of aid had arrived in the eastern city of Benghazi.

"This is a disaster of epic proportions," said Ahmed Zouiten, the WHO's Libya representative. "We are saddened by the unspeakable loss of thousands of souls."

Two aid-laden planes were seen, one from the United Arab Emirates and another from Iran, land in Benghazi, more than 300 kilometres west of Derna.

A steady stream of vehicles trickled into Derna on a makeshift road as diggers toiled to shift rubble near an apartment block with a missing facade.

In Al-Bayda, 100 kilometres west of Derna, people worked to clear roads and homes of the mounds of mud left behind by the flash flood.

The Islamic Relief aid organisation warned of a "second humanitarian crisis", pointing to the "growing risk of water-borne diseases and shortages of food, shelter and medicine".

The spokesman for the eastern-based Libyan National Army, Ahmed al Mesmari, said the flood had affected "over 1.2 million people".

"Everything was washed away... the waters have completely cut off the roads in these regions," he said.

The United Nations has launched an appeal for more than $71 million to assist hundreds of thousands in need.

"We don't know the extent of the problem," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said, as he called for coordination between Libya's two rival administrations.

The scale of the devastation has given way to shows of solidarity, as volunteers in Tripoli gathered aid for the flood victims in the east.

Teams from the Libyan Red Crescent were "still searching for possible survivors and clearing bodies from the rubble in the most damaged areas" of Derna.

Others were trying to deliver much-needed aid to families in the eastern part of the city, which had been spared the worst of the flooding but was cut off by road.

The International Organization for Migration, meanwhile, said "over 38,640" people had been left homeless in eastern Libya, 30,000 of them in Derna alone. — AFP

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