UN agencies warn of disease outbreaks due to contaminated water

Cyclone Daniel survivors in Libya face poisoning and mine risks

One individual tries to clear rubble amid fears of disease spreading after bodies began to decompose in the wake of devastating floods. Reuters

Survivors of Cyclone Daniel, which hit eastern Libya eight days ago, face several dangers, as the United Nations warned of a health crisis due to the risk of spreading diseases after the floods caused by the cyclone, and Libyans whose homes in the city of Derna were washed away by floods face themselves trapped between the hammer of staying in the city and the possibility of infection and the anvil of fleeing it through areas where floods have washed away landmines.

There are fears that thousands of people died after the collapse of two dams in the city of Derna, which led to the collapse of residential buildings that lined both sides of a normally dry riverbed while people were sleeping, and many bodies washed away towards the sea, and the Libyan authorities confirmed that 150 people were poisoned by contaminated water in flood-affected areas.

United Nations agencies warned yesterday that the stricken Libyan city of Derna is at risk of an outbreak of diseases that could lead to a devastating second crisis, and warned that the affected people, 30,<> of whom are homeless, are in urgent need of clean water, food and basic supplies, in light of the increasing risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition.

"Teams from nine UN agencies have deployed over the past few days to provide aid and support to those affected by Hurricane Daniel and the floods," the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said, warning that local officials, aid agencies and the U.N. World Health Organization were concerned about the risk of disease outbreaks, particularly due to contaminated water and lack of sanitation.

Some residents are living in makeshift shelters, schools or overcrowded in the homes of relatives or friends, OCHA said in a report, adding that floodwaters have washed away landmines and other munitions left behind by Libya's internal conflict over the past years, posing an additional risk to thousands of displaced people on the move.

In the same context, the International Rescue Committee warned of "a rapidly escalating public health crisis in flood-hit areas in eastern Libya, especially the hardest-hit city of Derna."

"The recent floods have severely polluted water sources and mixed them with sewage, making them unsafe for consumption and exposing communities to serious health risks," the committee said in a press release.

Contaminated water can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases, putting vulnerable populations, especially women and children, at increased risk, the committee said.

Entire areas were washed away and some covered in mud in Derna, which has an estimated population of 120,48, and Mohammed Naji Buchertila, a civil servant, said <> members of his family were missing. Wasfi, a resident who preferred to give only his first name, said: "We still don't know anything, we hear rumours, some try to reassure us and others say either you leave the city or stay here. We have no water and no resources." Hassan Awad, a resident of Derna, said: "People came with aid from everywhere, and this made it easier for us, and we felt that we were not alone."

Awad pointed to a rusty column stretched between two buildings, and said that clinging to it is the reason why his family survived the flood that destroyed their home and covered everything in mud, adding: "We found the bodies of neighbors, friends and loved ones, I can't describe what happened."

On Derna's waterfront yesterday, a bulldozer stood up to lift the wreckage of furniture and cars in an attempt to find victims underneath, another bulldozer was clearing rubble while rescue workers stood nearby to pray, while volunteers distributed clothes and food in different areas of the city.