Floods in Libya reportedly kill up to 10,000; pope ‘deeply saddened,’ offers prayers

 

People look at the damage caused by flash floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on Sept. 11, 2023. / Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 09:35 am (CNA).

Catastrophic flooding in Libya resulted in what officials estimated was up to 10,000 deaths there in the wake of multiple dam failures amid torrential downpours.

The Vatican, meanwhile, said in a telegram that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by the national tragedy, offering prayers to the country as it works to address the disaster and rescue those still affected by it.

The state-controlled Libyan News Agency said on Monday that “dangerous weather conditions and torrential rains” persisted after widespread flooding swept over the eastern region of the country.

The disaster came after Cyclone Daniel, a storm that formed in the Mediterranean Sea, moved over the eastern portions of the North African country. Authorities said several dams broke, inundating nearby towns including the coastal city of Derna, which had reportedly confirmed more than 2,000 deaths by Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, the Vatican sent a telegram to Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the apostolic nuncio to Libya, in which the Holy See said Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the immense loss of life and destruction caused by the flooding in the eastern part of Libya.”

The pope “sends the assurance of his prayers for the souls of the deceased and all who mourn,” said the telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“His Holiness also expresses heartfelt spiritual closeness to the injured, to those who fear for their missing loved ones, and to the emergency personnel providing rescue and relief assistance,” the document said.

“Upon all affected by this tragedy, Pope Francis willingly invokes the divine blessings of consolation, strength, and perseverance.”

By Tuesday morning a global relief effort was underway. Georgette Gagnon, the assistant secretary-general, resident, and humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations’ relief mission in Libya, said on Twitter that she had “tasked the emergency response team to prepare to support local authorities and partners in eastern Libya.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, meanwhile, said on Facebook that responders were “working around the clock to provide aid and support” to those affected by the storm.

And the U.S. Department of State on Monday said the government was “coordinating with U.N. partners and Libyan authorities on how we can assist the ongoing relief efforts.”

The disaster comes just days after a devastating earthquake rocked the nearby country of Morocco, killing nearly 3,000 by Tuesday and sending relief workers scrambling to rescue trapped victims and provide material assistance there.


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