Libyan authorities struggle to bury thousands of corpses everywhere as UN says lack of a functioning weather service contributed to high death toll
Barack Obama who authorised the removal of Gaddafi from power in 2011 appeals for aid
Residents and rescue workers in the devastated Libyan city of Derna are struggling to cope with the thousands of corpses washing up or decaying under rubble, after a flood that smashed down buildings and swept people to sea.
President Obama outlined the mission of U.S. military action in Libya in a national address from National Defense University. March 28 2011. In his remarks he talked about the events that led to his decision to commit U.S. forces to the international mission, spoke about the future role of the U.S., and explained American interests in the region. He also called on those Libyans still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi to desert him, and said that the end of the leader’s rule was inevitable
The World Health Organisation and other aid groups urged authorities in Libya to stop burying flood victims in mass graves, saying these could bring long-term mental distress to families or cause health risks if located near water.
A U.N. report said more than 1,000 people had so far been buried in that manner since Libya, a nation divided by a decade of conflict and political chaos, was hit on Sunday by torrential rain that caused two dams to burst.
Thousands were killed and thousands more are missing.
“Bodies are littering the streets, washing back on shore, and are buried under collapsed buildings and debris. In just two hours, one of my colleagues counted over 200 bodies on the beach near Derna,” Bilal Sablouh, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) forensics manager for Africa, told a briefing in Geneva.
Majority of the fatalities and property damage caused by disastrous floods in Libya could have been prevented if adequate early warning and emergency management systems had been in place, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday.
“The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out evacuation of the people. And we could have avoided most of the human casualties,” Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO, told reporters in Geneva.
The North African country’s meteorological center reportedly issued severe weather warnings 72 hours prior to the storm and notified governmental authorities via email.
However, WMO chief Taalas has raised doubts about the efficiency of the warnings disseminated, saying that Libya’s main difficulty in dealing with the aftermath of floods was that the governing system was “not functioning normally.”
“If they would have been a normally operating meteorological service, they could have issued a warning,” he said.
Rescue efforts in Derna are intensifying, with eastern Libyan government officials reporting at least 6,000 deaths, 10,000 missing, and more than 7,000 injured. On Thursday, Derna mayor Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi said as many as 20,000 people may have died.
Rescue operations in Derna are said to be complicated by the country’s political divisions. Since Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011 in a NATO-backed intervention, Libya has been divided between the internationally recognized Government of National Unity in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east.
On Thursday, Taalas claimed that previous UN WMO efforts to assist Libyan authorities in improving the country’s meteorological system had been hampered by security threats.
“Since the security situation in the country is so difficult, it’s difficult to go there and improve the situation,” Taalas said, according to a Reuters report.
Barack Obama who as US president in 2011 authorised the removal of Gaddafi from power appealed for aid to the Obama Foundation in a tweet.
“If you’re looking to help people impacted by the floods in Libya, check out these organizations providing relief:”
The UN Refugee Agency’s national charity in the UK has launched an urgent appeal for Libya, aiming to raise $71.4 million in aid.
The World Health Organization also announced on Thursday that it is releasing $2 million from its contingency fund to support emergency efforts in eastern Libya.
Twenty-eight metric tons of emergency supplies will arrive in the North African country on Friday from the WHO logistics hub in Dubai, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world body’s director general.