The number of deaths in the Libyan city of Derna could range from 18,000 to 20,000 following catastrophic flooding, according to the city’s mayor.
Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi told al-Arabiya TV yesterday this could be based on the number of wiped-out districts in the city.
It came as the King sent a letter of condolence to the chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed al-Menfi.
The message read: “My wife and I are so desperately saddened by the devastating impact and loss of life caused by Storm Daniel and the subsequent floods.
“We mourn with all those who have lost their loved ones, and continue to pray for everyone whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the horrific floods.
“I admire greatly all those who are engaged tirelessly in the rescue efforts in such dire conditions, and praise their selfless bravery.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the UK government announced an initial aid package worth up to £1m to meet the immediate needs of those affected by the catastrophic flooding in Derna.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, it is “shocking to see the scale of the loss and devastation caused by the floods in Libya”, adding that the UK is “working to provide immediate assistance to the Libyan people”.
Libyan officials appealed for international help on Monday, warning the country doesn’t have the necessary experience to deal with a disaster of this scale.
At least 30,000 people have been displaced in Derna, with health officials saying on Wednesday that the number of deaths in the city had risen to more than 5,100 – while a minister has said 5,300 bodies in the country’s east had been recovered.
Search teams have been combing streets, wrecked buildings and even the sea to look for bodies in the coastal Libyan city where the collapse of two dams unleashed a massive flash flood.
Storm Daniel caused significant damage to roads and telecoms networks on Sunday – with strong winds and sudden heavy rainfall devastating the port city of Derna – about 560 miles (900km) east of the capital, Tripoli.
The “sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies”, Hichem Abu Chkiouat, minister of civil aviation in the administration that runs eastern Libya, said, adding that reconstruction would cost billions of dollars.
“We have counted more than 5,300 dead so far, and the number is likely to increase significantly and may even double because the number of missing people is also thousands,” he said.
Footage of one man, described by the charity Libyan Red Crescent Society as a grieving father, showed his distress as his son’s body was recovered from a collapsed building and prepared for transportation.