Thousands feared dead in catastrophic Libya flooding

A powerful Mediterranean storm pummeled Libya's northeast coast, wiping out entire neighborhoods

Catastrophic flooding in Derna, Libya
Catastrophic flooding in Derna, Libya
(Image credit: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Heavy rainfall from Mediterranean storm Daniel pounded northeastern Libya over the weekend, causing two dams to burst above the city of Derna. "The flowing water carried away entire neighborhoods, eventually depositing them into the sea," Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the armed forces in eastern Libya, said Monday. 

Al-Mosmari said more than 2,000 people were dead and thousands more missing in Derna, numbers echoed by Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the eastern government but not independently verified. The Libyan Red Crescent put the number of confirmed deaths in Derna at more than 300 late Monday, though it said it expected the number to rise. "Derna is a tragedy, a catastrophe," said Asmahan Belaoun, a Libyan lawmaker with family in the city, according to The Washington Post.

The storm caused serious flooding in Greece and slammed Turkey and Bulgaria last week before moving over the warm waters of the Mediterranean and strengthening into a tropical-like cyclone known as a medicane. It then dumped heavy rain on the northeastern coast of Libya, hitting Derna, the cities of Bayda and Shahhat and several smaller towns and villages. The weakened storm is heading to Egypt next.

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Libya's National Center on Meteorology said more than 16 inches of rain fell on Bayda over a 24-hour period. Bayda typically gets about half an inch of rain in September and 21.4 inches a year, the Post reported, citing the site Floodlist. 

Libya has not had a central government since 2014, after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi left a vacuum filled by warring factions. The area hit by the catastrophic flooding is in the area controlled by the Libyan National Army. The internationally recognized Tripoli-based government that controls western Libya said Monday it sent ambulances, rescue convoys and doctors to eastern Libya to help with disaster relief. Both governments declared three days of mourning.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.