DERNA – The mayor of the eastern Libya port city of Derna estimates between 18,000 and 20,000 people have died in flooding.
Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi told al-Arabiya TV that his estimate was based on the number of districts completely destroyed when two dams burst.
The BBC reported that more than 5,000 people are known to have died and at least 10,000 are missing while streets were swept away in the torrents and bodies are being recovered from the sea.
The two rival governments in Libya are co-ordinating relief efforts for flood victims and rescue teams have arrived from countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Libya had been split between rival governments in the east and west for around a decade.
The country was under foreign control for centuries until it gained independence in 1951 and came under the control of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 1969.
He ruled autocratically until he was toppled and killed in 2011 – in a rebellion assisted by Western military intervention.
In 2014, renewed fighting broke out, with Libya split between two administrations – one based in the east, and one in the west in the capital Tripoli.
The two sides signed a ceasefire in 2020 but political rivalries continue.
In 2021, a Government of National Unity was formed in Tripoli with Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh as the internationally-recognised prime minister, but the following year the eastern-based parliament formed a rival – and rather similarly named – Government of National Stability.
The continued polarisation of Libya between these two governments claiming to be the country’s legitimate rulers has complicated international peace efforts and divided their external backers.
The rival governments’ claim to legitimacy are rooted in their interpretations of UN-sponsored agreements on Libya’s political transition, and the split was compounded by the country’s failure to hold elections in 2021.
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