London/Benghazi, Libya — ‘Everyone is still in shock. We still haven’t had time to process our emotions.’
People are looking for help wherever they can find it as they struggle to even comprehend the scale of the catastrophic floods that have torn through eastern Libya, says a doctor dealing with the crisis.
Entire neighbourhoods in the northeastern city of Derna were destroyed or washed away when two dams broke after a storm hit on 10 September. Tens of thousands of people have left the area to seek help and shelter elsewhere.
Dr Najib ElTarhuni spoke to The New Humanitarian’s Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod from Benghazi Medical Center, where he said people are showing up in need of all kinds of aid. He and his colleagues are helping to coordinate requests for food, clothing, and shelter.
But so much more is needed, he said.
“We just need rescue teams and people who actually know how to extract corpses,” ElTarhuni said. “This operation will take us days, and even weeks probably.”
“We definitely need everything,” he said. “We are understaffed. We’re underfunded. We lack the materials. We lack the medications. We lack the equipment. Anything would help.”
Reported death tolls vary from 5,000 to as high as 11,300 but could change, with more than 10,000 people believed to be unaccounted for.
“There are corpses that are still stuck,” ElTarhuni said. “People are waiting for their close ones – their loved ones are still under buildings. They know they’re dead, but they just want to bury the bodies.”
“Everyone is still in shock. We still haven’t had time to process our emotions,” he added. “Everyone is just walking around, ghosts on the streets.”
Listen to Dr ElTarhuni’s comments here:
Annie Slemrod, Middle East Editor