CAIRO (AP) — Four Greek rescue workers sent to Libya after devastating floods in the eastern city of Derna died in a car accident Sunday, Libya’s health minister said.
About 11,300 people died when two dams collapsed and a wall of water rushed through the city during Mediterranean Storm Daniel last week, according to the Red Crescent aid group. Another 10,000 people are missing, presumed dead. Since then, rescue workers from Greece, Turkey, Egypt and other countries have flocked to the decimated port city to offer help.
On Sunday, a bus carrying 19 Greek rescue workers collided with an oncoming vehicle carrying five Libyan nationals on the road between the cities of Benghazi and Derna, Health Minister Othman Abduljaleel said in a press conference. Three Libyans in the oncoming vehicle were also killed.
Seven of the surviving Greek rescue workers were in critical condition, the minister said.
In a parallel statement, Greece’s foreign ministry acknowledged the crash but said all its nationals “suffered only minor injuries” and were being treated in nearby hospitals. The Associated Press was not immediately able to reconcile the conflicting reports.
The disaster has brought rare unity to oil-rich Libya, which is divided between rival governments in the east and west of the country backed by various militias and international patrons. Residents in the nearby cities of Benghazi and Tobruk have offered to shelter the displaced, while volunteers have helped search for survivors among the rubble.
But opposing governments struggled to respond to the crisis. Their reconstruction efforts have been hampered by confusion, difficulties in providing supplies to the hardest-hit areas, and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges.
As of Sunday, more than 3,283 bodies had been buried, Abduljaleel said, many in mass graves outside Derna while others were transferred to nearby towns.
On Saturday, Libyan Attorney General al-Sediq al-Sour opened an investigation into the collapse of the two dams built in the 1970s and the allocation of maintenance funds. The mayor of Derna, Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi, was suspended pending an investigation into the disaster.
Authorities and aid groups have expressed concern about the spread of water-borne diseases and the movement of explosive ordnance from recent conflicts in Libya. Haider al-Saeih, head of the Libyan Center for Disease Control, said in televised comments on Saturday that at least 150 people had suffered from diarrhea after drinking contaminated water in Derna.
To prevent disease outbreaks, Abduljaleel said his ministry has started “vaccinations against diseases that usually arise after disasters like this.”
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