A local health official reported that more than 5,100 people had died as a result of flooding that slammed the coastal city of Derna in eastern Libya.
Thousands more people were still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands were left homeless.
The city of Derna was cut off on Sunday night as flash floods washed away the majority of the access routes.
Aid workers who were able to reach the area detailed its destruction. Teams of search and rescue personnel searched the wreckage of apartment buildings for remains and rescued the dead that were floating in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Bodies are everywhere, in buildings, on the streets, and in the ocean. Everywhere you look, you find dead people—men, women, and kids,Emad al-Falah, a Benghazi-native speaking on the phone from Derna, said. Whole families perished.
In numerous eastern Libyan towns, including Derna, devastating flooding was triggered by Mediterranean Storm Daniel. Residents claim to have heard huge explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed as the storm pummeled the coast on Sunday.
Wadi Derna, a watercourse that flows from the highlands through the city and into the sea, was wiped away by floodwaters.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Libya, Yann Fridez, told French television station France24 that the city of Derna was flooded by waves that were 7 meters (23 feet) high and devastated everything in their path.
“The human cost is staggering.”
Derna is tucked away in a Mediterranean coastal plain beneath a line of sharp mountains. There are only two still-passable routes from the south, and both of them require a protracted detour into the highlands.
At least 5,100 deaths have been reported in Derna, along with another 100 others in other parts of eastern Libya, according to Osama Ali, a spokesman for the Ambulance and Emergency Center in that region of Libya.
He told The Associated Press by phone on Wednesday that more than 7,000 people were hurt throughout the city, with the majority receiving care in field hospitals that authorities and humanitarian organizations set up.
Since crews are still retrieving victims from the streets, buildings, and ocean, he said, the number of fatalities is sure to rise.
At least 9,000 people are still unaccounted for, although Ali said that figure may decline once communication is resumed.
According to the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations, at least 30,000 people in Derna were forced to leave their homes due to the flooding, and access to the city was still difficult for assistance personnel.