More than 100 Syrians dead in Libya flood: monitor

People gather for a demonstration outside the surviving Al-Sahaba mosque in Libya's eastern city of Derna on September 18, 2023, as they protest against government neglect to the two dams which broke and led to the deadly flash floods that hit the city the prior week. A week after a tsunami-sized flash flood devastated the Libyan coastal city of Derna, sweeping thousands to their deaths, the international aid effort to help the grieving survivors slowly gathered pace. The enormous flood, fuelled by torrential rains on September 10, had broken through two upstream dams and sent a giant wave crashing down the previously dry river bed, or wadi, that bisects the city of about 100,000 people. (Photo by Hussam AHMED / AFP)

BEIRUT, Lebanon– More than 100 Syrians, including entire families, died in flash flooding that killed thousands in Libya's eastern city of Derna last week, a war monitor said.

Thousands of Syrians fled their war-torn homeland over the past 12 years for Libya, which has become a launchpad for migrants hoping to make the perilous voyage to Europe by sea.

"In total, 112 Syrians were killed in the flood and more than 100 are still missing," said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The flooding has killed nearly 3,300 people and left thousands more missing as war-scarred Libya was lashed by the hurricane-strength Storm Daniel on September 10.

"I lost two nephews, their wives and six of their children" including a six-month-old baby, Syrian construction worker Khaled Ali told AFP over the phone from Derna.

His nephews Hadi and Mahmoud had taken refuge in Lebanon after Syria's war erupted in 2011, but they later fled to Libya after their country's economy collapsed in late 2019.

"We fled from one crisis to another," said the 37-year-old who hails from Daraa province, the cradle of Syria's 2011 uprising that the government brutally suppressed.

"This is our fate".

He identified his nephews' bodies in pictures posted on Facebook, he said.

Families of Syrians who disappeared in the tragedy have been sharing photographs of their relatives on Facebook groups, asking for their whereabouts.

Damascus resident Ibrahim Qalaaji, 46, held a funeral for eight relatives including his brother Mohammed, who are either dead or missing in the disaster, he told AFP over the phone.

"A doctor there told us my brother and his wife had died, but there is no trace of the rest of the family," he said.

Mohammed had been in Libya since 2000.

His surviving brother Shadi was swept away from a rooftop and held on to a mosque's minaret as the waters hurled dead bodies towards him.

Shadi lost all his belongings, including identification papers, in the disaster, Qalaaji said.

"He has no past, no present, no future."

Syria's war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions.