Flood-hit areas of Libya are threatened by “a rapidly escalating public health crisis,” an international aid group warned on Monday, as several aid workers and journalists were killed in two separate car crashes in the eastern region.
“Recent floods have severely contaminated water sources with sewage, rendering them unsafe for consumption and exposing communities to grave health risks,” the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a press release, warning that the badly hit port city of Derna was particularly at risk.
A powerful storm dubbed Daniel hit conflict-ridden Libya, where two rival governments are vying for power, on September 10 after earlier lashing Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Two dams broke in the mountains above the port of Derna, washing away large areas of the city of around 100,000 people, with thousands feared dead.
IRC said Derna has already recorded at least 55 children who have become sick as a result of contaminated water. “Contaminated water can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases, putting vulnerable populations, especially women and children, at increased risk,” it said.
“The situation in Derna and other flood-affected areas of Libya is dire,” Elie Abouaoan, IRC Libya Country Director was quoted as saying. He stressed that “the access to clean water is a basic human right.”
Five rescue workers from Greece who were in Libya as part of the flood relief effort were killed in a car accident, Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis confirmed to local media on Monday.
Another fourteen people were injured in Sunday’s crash, he told Greek broadcaster Skai. The dead were three emergency workers and two translators. According to media reports, the accident occurred near Derna.
Othman Abdeljalil, health minister in the administration that runs the east of the country, told a news conference the team had been travelling from the eastern city of Benghazi when the crash happened.
He put the death toll at four, but Greek officials said five members of their humanitarian aid team were killed.
“Five bodies, including three officials of the Greek army and two translators from the Greek foreign ministry who were part of the aid team, will be repatriated to Athens on Monday,” the Greek chiefs of staff said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the accident a “tragedy”. “The whole country is in mourning,” he said.
According to Libyan authorities, three members of a Libyan family were also killed in the crash. Two others were seriously injured. A separate traffic accident on Monday killed six people, among them journalists and activists who were serving as volunteers to assist in the rescue operations in Derna, the Libyan news outlet Bawbat Al reported.
The accident occurred in the Qandoula area, Bawbat Al cited the spokesman for the Special Forces of the General Command, Brigadier General Milad Al-Zawi, as saying.
Meanwhile, the European Union said that it was providing an additional $5.55mn in humanitarian aid to Libya.
The European Commission announced on Monday that the money is go to humanitarian organizations focussing on providing shelter, health, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and protection. Additionally some EU countries have sent relief supplies and expert teams to the disaster area. Two rival governments are vying for power in oil-rich Libya, which has been plagued by chaos since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011. One is based in the east and the other in the capital Tripoli.