DERNA, Libya – Survivors of a flood that swept away the centre of a Libyan city picked through the ruins on Thursday in search of loved ones from among thousands of dead and missing, while authorities feared an outbreak of disease from rotting bodies.
A torrent unleashed by a powerful storm burst dams on Sunday night and hurtled down a seasonal riverbed that bisects the city.
It washed multi-storey buildings into the sea with sleeping families inside.
Thousands of people are confirmed dead and thousands more missing, with the mayor saying the toll could reach 20,000.
Mr Usama Al Husadi, a 52-year-old driver, had been searching for his wife and five children since the disaster.
“I went by foot searching for them…I went to all hospitals and schools but no luck,” he told Reuters, weeping with his head in his hands.
Mr Husadi, who had been working the night of the storm, dialled his wife’s phone number once again. It was switched off.
“We lost at least 50 members from my father’s family, between missing and dead,” he said.
Brick factory worker Mr Wali Eddin Mohamed Adam, 24, living on the outskirts, had awakened to the boom of the water on the night of the storm and rushed to the city centre to find it was gone.
He had lost at least 10 family members and nine friends.
“All were swept away by the valley into the sea,” he said. “May God have mercy upon them them and grant them heaven.”
Confirmed death tolls given by officials so far have varied, but all are in the thousands, with thousands more on lists of the missing.
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