1 of 2 | Storm Daniel hit the north-eastern part of Libya affecting thousands of people, killing at least 5,000 people. Teams and volunteers from Libyan Red Crescent were the first on the ground, evacuating people and providing first aid and search and rescue efforts. Photo courtesy of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/Facebook
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The death toll from flooding in Libya rose to more than 5,000 after heavy rains destroyed two dams, officials said Tuesday.
Libya is governed by two rival governments at war. Tarek al-Kharraz, a spokesman for the interior ministry of the government in eastern Libya, said at least 5,200 people have died in Derna alone, a city of roughly 100,000 people, The New York Times reported citing a Libyan broadcaster.
Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, another spokesperson for the government in eastern Libya, said that the death toll had passed 5,300, according to The Guardian, citing Libyan state media.
Al-Kharraz said many of the bodies had been swept out to sea and that hundreds of others were piled in cemeteries unidentified. He said he expects the death toll to pass 10,000 people.
"There were corpses next to me, and corpses above me, and corpses beneath me," Sondos Shuwaib, a local blogger, said in an online post cited by The Guardian.
Anas El-Gomati, director of the Libyan policy research center Sadeq Institute, told the Times that Libyan authorities apparently did not make significant plans to monitor the dams or warn residents to evacuate even after the storm, named Daniel, killed more than a dozen people in Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria last week.
"We say Mother Nature, but this is the act of man -- it's the incompetence of Libya's political elites," El-Gomati said. "There's no words you can find to describe the biblical level of suffering those people have to endure."
El-Gomati told The Guardian a probe would be needed because of "corruption and incompetence" ahead of the disaster.
"In Morocco perhaps you had seconds or minutes when the tectonic plates moved, but here in Libya there was plenty of warning about this hurricane," he said. "Yet, there was no evacuation of Derna -- and now a quarter of the city's population are underwater."
Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army, said in a televised news conference Monday the torrential rains and flooding marked the first time the country has been exposed to this type of weather. The Libyan National Army is the dominant political force in the area.
Al-Mismari called the disaster "completely unexpected" and said road conditions were making it difficult to conduct search and rescue operations.
President Joe Biden extended his "deepest condolences" to Libya on behalf of himself and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, in a statement.
"Jill and I send our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in the devastating floods in Libya," Biden said.
"In this difficult hour, the United States is sending emergency funds to relief organizations and coordinating with the Libyan authorities and the UN to provide additional support. We join the Libyan people in grieving the loss of too many lives cut short and send our hope to all those missing loved ones."