Derna’s SOS: The Race to Save Lives in Libya’s Flood Crisis


News by AUN News correspondent
Friday, September 15, 2023
AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090


  • In the wake of a catastrophic flood crisis that has left Libya’s city of Derna in ruins, survivors grapple with the devastation and uncertainty.
  • Families like the Yassines, who faced a harrowing escape to rooftops, bear witness to the cries for salvation from their fellow citizens trapped beneath the deluge.
  • As floodwaters recede, survivors gather by the sea, anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones and the recovery of the missing.
  • Despite overwhelming challenges, Derna’s resilient people hold onto hope amidst the turmoil.
  • In a nation marked by internal conflicts, their collective cry of “Save us, save us” resonates as a plea for unity and a brighter future amid the ruins.

The city of Derna, nestled along the Mediterranean coast of Libya, has turned into a scene of despair and destruction as torrential rains and two dam collapses unleashed a catastrophic flood that has claimed more than 5,000 lives, with another 10,000 residents feared missing.

Desperate Escape from Rising Waters: A Harrowing Tale Amidst the Flood Crisis

In the heart of Derna, a city now forever etched into the annals of Libya’s flood crisis, the Yassine family, led by the indomitable Ruba Hatem Yassine, confronted a nightmarish ordeal that would test the limits of human endurance. As the tempestuous storm waters mercilessly tore through the city’s streets, they unleashed chaos and devastation that defied imagination.

In this tumultuous hour, Ruba and her kin found themselves facing an agonizing decision: to stay and risk becoming victims of this relentless deluge or to seek refuge on higher ground. With the waters surging menacingly, they clambered up a neighbor’s ladder, each rung a desperate plea for salvation, until they reached the sanctuary of a rooftop.

But their ordeal was far from over. The floodwaters showed no mercy, prompting a perilous journey from rooftop to rooftop along the narrow, inundated streets. Each leap and bound was a dance with danger as the Yassine family navigated a labyrinth of uncertainty, clutching onto hope with every step.

Eventually, their journey brought them to an unexpected haven—a small, nondescript storage unit perched precariously on one of the rooftops. Here, amidst the chaos and rising tide of despair, they found a momentary respite, a fragile sanctuary from the watery abyss that had consumed their beloved city.

From this vantage point, perched on the brink of disaster, they bore witness to the relentless deluge that had overwhelmed Derna. The cacophony of destruction was punctuated by the desperate cries of their fellow citizens, trapped in homes reduced to half-ruins or buried beneath the unforgiving rubble. Their anguished pleas pierced the night, echoing the collective cry of the city: “Save us, save us.”

A Lifeline of Hope: Acts of Heroism Amidst Derna’s Deluge

A sense of helplessness that hung heavy in the muggy air persisted for hours. But then, in the darkest hour, a glimmer of hope emerged. The Yassine family and those in comparable straits received a lifeline from other survivors who had come together in a common struggle and unbreakable spirit of solidarity.

With unwavering determination, these courageous souls braved the remnants of the flood to reach out to those in need. In an act of sheer heroism amidst the flood crisis, they helped Ruba Hatem Yassine’s family of nine navigate the treacherous journey down from their rooftop sanctuary to the safety that had been so desperately sought.

In the annals of Derna’s flood crisis, the Yassine family’s harrowing tale serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring capacity for hope even in the face of nature’s most relentless fury.

The grim toll rises

As of Wednesday, the official count of missing persons stood at more than 10,000, a grim reminder of the scale of the disaster that has befallen this North African nation. The death toll, already surpassing 5,000, could potentially rise to a staggering 20,000, given the number of districts completely wiped out.

Mayor Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi of Derna painted a dire picture, stating that the destruction was so extensive that it might take weeks, months, or even years to fully assess. The floodwaters had dispersed the corpses over vast stretches of land.

A nation ill-prepared

Libya, a country that has experienced years of civil war and political unrest, was unprepared for the fury of Storm Daniel. The storm swept across the Mediterranean Sea, ruthlessly battering the country’s coastline and quickly exposing the vulnerabilities of its poorly maintained infrastructure.

The nation remains divided, with an internationally recognized government in the west, based in the capital city of Tripoli, and a separate administration in the east, including Derna, where the Libyan National Army holds sway. These political divisions have further complicated rescue and aid efforts, leaving many in a state of dire need.

Hindered Aid Efforts

Despite desperately needed aid slowly making its way into the eastern part of the country, reaching the hardest-hit city of Derna remains a significant challenge. Damaged roads and bridges, along with impassable western and eastern entrances, have left the southern unpaved road as the only lifeline to the city. Aid organizations and rescue teams are struggling to navigate these obstacles.

Bashir Ben Amer, an aid worker with the International Rescue Committee in Libya, expressed concerns about the durability of the sole functioning road under the weight of constant convoys. He noted that many of the city’s 30,000 homeless residents have chosen to stay, either searching for loved ones or burying the dead.

Waiting for Answers: Unyielding Hope Amidst the Devastation of the Flood Crisis

As the relentless floodwaters begin their slow retreat, they unveil a scene of both heartbreak and tenacious hope along the shores of Derna. Here, amid the wreckage and uncertainty, survivors stand vigil by the sea, their eyes cast out to the horizon, awaiting news of loved ones and the longed-for recovery of the missing.

In these moments of agonizing waiting, the weight of uncertainty bears down on the shoulders of Derna’s residents. Every passing minute feels like an eternity, and every crashing wave is a reminder of the unyielding power of the flood that has forever altered their lives. Yet, amidst this perilous uncertainty, the people of Derna remain unbroken, their spirits unwavering.

Rising from the Depths: Derna’s Unyielding Spirit Amidst Crisis

The need for answers is overwhelming, but the residents are not defined by despair; they are defined by resilience. They gather by the sea, their collective presence a testament to the strength of community in the face of the most daunting challenges. It is here that they draw strength, for the sea, with its timeless ebb and flow, symbolizes the enduring spirit of a city battered but not defeated.

The flood crisis, while devastating, has revealed an unshakable resolve among Derna’s inhabitants. It is a reminder that in the darkest of hours, unity emerges as a guiding light. In a nation grappling with its own internal conflicts, the cries of “Save us, save us” echo not only as a desperate plea for assistance but as a resounding call for unity.

In the midst of ruin and the tumultuous currents of their own discord, the people of Derna hold fast to the belief that a brighter future can emerge from the depths of tragedy. Their unwavering hope serves as a beacon of resilience, a testament to the indomitable human spirit, and a reminder that even in the face of nature’s fury and political strife, humanity’s capacity for solidarity remains unbreakable.

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