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Road collision kills 4 Greek rescuers sent to flood-hit Libya

CAIRO — Four Greek rescue workers sent to Libya following devastating floods in the eastern town of Derna were killed in a road accident on Sunday, Libya’s health minister said.

According to the Red Crescent humanitarian organization, some 11,300 people died when two dams collapsed during Mediterranean Storm Daniel last week, causing a wall of water to gush across the city. Ten thousand other people are missing and presumed dead.

Rescuers from Greece, Turkey, Egypt and other countries flocked to the decimated port city to offer help.

On Sunday, a bus carrying 19 Greek rescue workers collided with a vehicle carrying five Libyan nationals on the road between the towns of Benghazi and Derna, Health Minister Othman Abduljaleel told a news conference. Three Libyans who were in the oncoming vehicle were also killed.

Seven of the surviving Greek rescuers are in critical condition, the minister said.

In a parallel statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry acknowledged the accident but said only three of its nationals had died and two others were missing. The Associated Press was not immediately able to reconcile the conflicting reports.

The disaster brought rare unity to oil-rich Libya, divided between rival governments in the country’s east and west, backed by various militias and international sponsors. Residents of the neighboring towns of Benghazi and Tobruk offered to shelter the displaced, while volunteers helped search for survivors buried under the rubble.

But opposing governments have struggled to respond to the crisis. Their recovery efforts have been hampered by confusion, difficulties in getting aid to the hardest-hit areas and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges.

More than 3,283 bodies were buried on Sunday, Abduljaleel said, most 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, as well as the allocation of maintenance funds. The mayor of Derna, Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi, has been suspended pending an investigation into the disaster.

Authorities and humanitarian groups have expressed concern about the spread of waterborne diseases and the movement of explosive munitions from recent conflicts in Libya.

Haider al-Saeih, head of Libya’s disease control center, said in televised remarks Saturday that at least 150 people had suffered from diarrhea after drinking contaminated water in Derna.

To prevent the outbreak of diseases, Abduljaleel said his ministry had started “vaccinations against diseases that usually occur after disasters like this.”

ABC News

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