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One week after Libya flood, aid effort gains pace

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DERNA: A week after a tsunami-sized flash flood devastated the Libyan coastal city of Derna, sweeping thousands to their deaths, the international aid effort to help the grieving survivors slowly gathered pace Sunday.

Search-and-rescue teams wearing face masks and protective suits kept up the grim search for bodies or any survivors in the mud-caked wasteland of smashed buildings, crushed cars and uprooted trees.

Traumatised residents, 30,000 of whom are now homeless in Derna alone, are in dire need of clean water, food, shelter and basic supplies amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition, UN agencies warn.

Emergency response teams and relief goods have been deployed from France, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates, with more on the way from multiple other nations.

The health minister of the eastern administration, Othman Abdeljalil, has said that 3,252 people were confirmed dead in Derna.

Libyan officials and humanitarian organisations have warned that the final toll could be much higher with thousands still missing.

The massive flood came as Libya was lashed on September 10 by the hurricane-strength Storm Daniel, which had earlier brought deadly floods to Greece, Türkiye and Bulgaria.

The rapidly rising waters burst two upstream river dams in Derna, sending a late-night tidal wave crashing through the centre of the city of 100,000, sweeping entire residential blocks into the Mediterranean.

UN experts have blamed the high death toll on climatic factors as the Mediterranean region has sweltered under an unusually hot summer.

A week on from the disaster, bodies are still washing up on the sea shore, along with vast amounts of household items and debris.

A rescue crew from Malta's Civil Protection Department said it had discovered a beach strewn with hundreds of bodies on Friday, the Times of Malta newspaper reported.

A Libyan rescue team in an inflatable boat reported seeing "perhaps 600 bodies" at sea off the Om-al-Briket region, about 20 kilometres east of Derna, according to a video shared on social networks.

The United Nations has launched an aid appeal for more than $71 million.

The aid being sent to Libya includes water, food, tents, blankets, hygiene kits, medicines and emergency surgical supplies as well as heavy machinery to help clear the debris, and more body bags.

The scale of the devastation in Derna and surrounding areas has prompted shows of solidarity across divided Libya. — AFP

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