CAIRO (AP) — Libyan authorities blocked civilians from entering the flood-stricken eastern city of Derna on Friday so search teams could look through the mud and wrecked buildings for 10,100 people still missing after the known toll rose to 11,300 dead.
The disaster after two dams collapsed in heavy rains and sent a massive flood gushing into the Mediterranean city early Monday underscored the storm’s intensity but also Libya’s vulnerability. The oil-rich state since 2014 has been split between rival governments in the east and west backed by various militia forces and international patrons.
Derna was being evacuated and only search and rescue teams would be allowed to enter, Salam al-Fergany, director general of the Ambulance and Emergency Service in eastern Libya, announced late Thursday.
The disaster has brought rare unity, as government agencies across Libya’s divide rushed to help the affected areas, with the first aid convoys arriving in Derna on Tuesday evening. Relief efforts have been slowed by the destruction after several bridges that connect the city were destroyed.
The Libyan Red Crescent said as of Thursday that 11,300 people in Derna had died and another 10,100 were reported missing. Mediterranean storm Daniel also killed about 170 people elsewhere in the country.
Eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, has said the burials so far were in mass graves outside Derna and nearby towns and cities.
Abduljaleel said rescue teams were searching wrecked buildings in the city center and divers were combing the sea off Derna.
Soon after the storm hit the city Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters gushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.
Lori Hieber Girardet, the head of the risk knowledge branch the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, told The Associated Press on Thursday that because of years of chaos and conflict Libyan “government institutions are not functioning as they should.”
As a result, she said, “The amount of attention that should be paid to disaster management, to disaster risk management isn’t adequate.”
The city of Derna is governed by Libya’s eastern administration, which is backed by the powerful military commander Khalifa Hiftar.
Associated Press journalists Jack Jeffery in London and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.