Aid groups have warned of the growing risk posed by the spread of disease that could compound the humanitarian crisis in Libya, as hopes dwindled of finding more survivors days after deadly flooding.
According to international media reports, sunday’s flood submerged the port city of Derna, washing thousands of people and homes out to sea after two upstream dams burst under the pressure of torrential rains triggered by the hurricane-strength storm.
Conflicting death tolls have been reported, with officials in the east of the divided country giving different estimates, and one speaking of at least 3,840 dead.
Aid organisations like Islamic Relief and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have meanwhile warned the upcoming period could see the spread of disease as well as grave difficulties in delivering aid to those most in need.
Islamic Relief warned of a “second humanitarian crisis” after the flood, pointing to the “growing risk of water-borne diseases and shortages of food, shelter and medicine”.
“Thousands of people don’t have anywhere to sleep and don’t have food,” said Salah Aboulgasem, the organisation’s deputy director of partner development.
“In conditions like this, diseases can quickly spread as water systems are contaminated,” he added. “The city smells like death. Almost everyone has lost someone they know.”
MSF meanwhile said it was deploying teams to the east to assess water and sanitation.
“With this type of event we can really worry about water-related disease,” said Manoelle Carton, MSF’s medical coordinator in Derna, who described efforts to coordinate aid as “chaotic”.
However, the Red Cross and the World Health Organization pointed out that contrary to widespread belief, the bodies of victims of natural disasters rarely pose a health threat.