1 of 2 | A relative of an Egyptian man who died in the storm that hit Libya shows his picture at Kafr Sharif village in Beni Suef, about 120 km south of Cairo on Wednesday. Photo by Derna Khaled Elfiq/EPA-EFE
Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The official Libyan flood death toll rose to an estimated 6,000 Wednesday as rescue and aid operations ramped up. Roughly 10,000 more people were missing and hospital morgues were full even as many remained out of service to treat survivors.
"The death toll is huge and might reach thousands," said Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Libyan interior ministry raised the official death toll to 5,300 Tuesday night after heavy rains destroyed two dams.
The number of deaths is expected to rise as more victims are discovered.
A quarter of the coastal city of Derna was destroyed, leaving dead bodies lying in the streets.
"They tell us that almost a quarter [of Derna] was vanished away by the hurricane. They tell us that the dead bodies, you can see them on the streets everywhere," Ramadan said, citing reports from aid workers.
The United Nations International Organization for Migration said more than 30,000 people were displaced by the flooding in Derna.
"The Martyrs' committee [has been set up to] identify the missing people and to implement procedures for identifying and burial in accordance with Sharia and legal laws and standards," said Adel Juma, Libya's minister of state for cabinet affairs.
The International Rescue Committee's Ciaran Donnelly said in a statement, "The challenges are immense, with phone lines down and heavy destruction hampering rescue efforts."
A Libyan reporter told the BBC people in flood-ravaged Derna are living through "doomsday" with entire families wiped put by flood waters.
Johr Ali said he has heard from survivors who describe a harrowing situation that is beyond catastrophic.
"People are hearing the cries of babies underground, they don't know how to get to them," Ali said. "People are using shovels to get the bodies from underneath the ground, they are using their own hands. There are photos of the city of people getting bodies out with their naked, bare hands."
Aid is being mobilized internationally from the European Union, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli has made an official declaration of humanitarian need.
"The declaration of humanitarian need will authorize initial funding that the United States will provide in support of relief efforts in Libya, " Special Envoy Richard Boyce Norland wrote on X.
"We are coordinating with U.N. partners and Libyan authorities to assess how best to target official U.S. assistance. In addition, we have been contacted by many Libyan Americans anxious to make private contributions to relief efforts and we will work with Libyan authorities to direct those resources to where they are most needed."