Egypt has converted its Mistral helicopter carrier into a field hospital and sent it to Libya’s shores to alleviate the impacts of a humanitarian disaster caused by floods that have killed at least 6,000 people, including at least 145 Egyptians.
The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search for survivors in the northern coastal city of Derna, where two dams collapsed and washed homes into the sea. Morgues are full and hospitals are out of service, according to staff.
Around 10,000 people are still missing, potentially either swept out to sea or buried beneath rubble.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi offered his condolences to the families of the Egyptian citizens who lost their lives in Libya and directed the provision of urgent aid to their families.
On Tuesday, an Egyptian military delegation, led by Chief of Staff Osama Askar, arrived in Libya to provide immediate logistical and humanitarian aid in the wake of Storm Daniel. The Egyptian military also sent 25 rescue teams as well as three military jets, carrying food and medical supplies to Libya.
Storm Daniel reached the Libya coast on Sunday, Sept. 10, and caused widespread destruction, making the mammoth search and rescue mission even harder for rescuers trying to clear roads and debris to find survivors.
The storm also took out communications, frustrating rescue efforts and causing anxiety among family members outside Libya who are waiting for news of missing loved ones.
Derna is bisected by a seasonal river that flows from highlands to the south, and is normally protected from flooding by dams. However, the two dams collapsed due to the heavy rains, causing widespread damage.
A video posted on social media showed remnants of a collapsed dam 11.5 kilometers (7 miles) upstream of the city where two river valleys converge, now surrounded by huge pools of mud-colored water.
“There used to be a dam,” a voice can be heard saying in the video. Reuters confirmed the location based on the images.
In a research paper published last year, hydrologist Abdelwanees A. R. Ashoor of Libya’s Omar Al-Mukhtar University said repeated flooding of the seasonal riverbed, or wadi, was a threat to Derna. He cited five floods since 1942, and called for immediate steps to ensure regular maintenance of the dams.