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Rescuers retrieve hundreds of bodies in eastern Libya as 10,000 reported missing in deadly floods

Rescue teams struggled amid devastation in eastern Libya, retrieving hundreds of bodies from the rubble in a coastal city that has been inundated by devastating floods, a humanitarian agency said Tuesday.

Authorities estimated that as many as 2,000 people are believed dead in the city of Derna alone.

Mediterranean storm Daniel caused havoc and flash flooding in many towns in eastern Libya but the worst destruction was in Derna, where heavy rainfall and floods broke dams and washed away entire neighborhoods, authorities said.

Tamer Ramadan, Libya envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said 10,000 people were missing after the unprecedented flooding.

Speaking to reporters at a U.N. briefing in Geneva via videoconference from Tunisia, he said the death toll was “huge” and expected to reach into the thousands in the coming days.

Speaking about the fallout from Friday’s devastating earthquake in Morocco, on the other side of North Africa, Ramadan said the situation in Libya was “as devastating as the situation in Morocco.”

Ossama Hamad, prime minister of the government in eastern Libya, said that many of the missing were believed to have been carried away after two upstream dams burst.

He said the devastation in Derna is far beyond the capabilities of his country.

After more than a decade of chaos, Libya remains divided between two rival administrations: one in the east and one in the west, each backed by different militias and foreign governments.

The conflict has left the oil rich North African country with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure.

The Libyan Red Crescent said early Tuesday that its teams counted more than 300 people dead in Derna, which authorities have declared a disaster zone.

More bodies were still under the rubble in the city’s neighborhoods, or washed away to the sea, according to eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel.

Derna residents posted videos online showing major devastation.

More bodies were still under the rubble in the city’s neighborhoods, or washed away to the sea, according to eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel.

Entire residential blocks were erased along Wadi Derna, a river that runs down from the mountains through the city center.

Multi-story apartment buildings that once stood well back from the river were partially collapsed into mud.

Abduljaleel said the city was inaccessible and bodies were scattered all over, according to Libya’s state-run news agency.

He said there wasn’t an exact death toll as of Monday night in Derna, but that the tally is expected to exceed 2,000 as search teams combed through the rubble.

“The situation was more significant and worse than we expected. … An international intervention is needed,” he was quoted as saying.

Emergency responders, including troops, government workers, volunteers and residents were digging through rubble to recover the dead.

They also used inflatable boats to retrieve bodies from the water.

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