Flooding caused by torrential rains has left at least 150 people dead in eastern Libya, which has been hit by storm Daniel after Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, an official source said on Monday.
Speaking on the Almasar channel, the head of the executive in eastern Libya, Osama Hamad, put forward figures of "more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing" in the city of Derna alone, but no medical or rescue service source confirmed this death toll.
While the media in eastern Libya widely echoed Mr. Hamad's statements, the separate figures they reported from different localities were far lower than those he put forward.
"At least 150 people were killed due to flooding caused by storm Daniel in Derna, in the Jabal Al-Akhdar regions and in the suburbs of Al-Marj", Mohamed Massoud, spokesman for the head of the eastern Libyan executive, told AFP earlier.
Described by experts as "extreme in terms of the amount of water falling", storm Daniel has already claimed at least 27 lives in recent days in Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
Daniel hit eastern Libya on Sunday afternoon, particularly the coastal towns of Jabal al-Akhdar (northeast) but also Benghazi, where a curfew was declared and schools closed.
The east of the country is home to the main oil fields and terminals. The National Oil Company (NOC) declared a "state of maximum alert" and "suspended flights" between production sites, where activity has been drastically reduced.
Rescue teams were dispatched on Sunday to Derna, a city 900 km east of Tripoli and 300 km east of Benghazi was partially destroyed during violent clashes in 2018 between the forces of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, strongman of eastern Libya, and radical Islamist groups that controlled the city.
With a population of over 100,000, the coastal town is crossed by a wadi that flows into the Mediterranean and which overflowed due to the storm by around fifty meters on each side, washing away buildings and houses in its path, according to videos broadcast by the media.
Earlier on Monday, before heading out with his ministers, Mr. Hamad declared Derna a "disaster area". Hundreds of residents are still trapped in hard-to-reach areas as rescue teams, backed by the army, try to help them.
The authorities in eastern Libya "lost contact with nine soldiers during rescue operations in this town", according to Mr. Massoud.
Images filmed by residents of eastern cities such as Derna, al-Bayda and smaller towns, show impressive mudslides and entire neighborhoods under water, as well as collapsed roads and buildings.
A Derna city council official described the situation in his city as "catastrophic", "out of control" and requiring "national and international intervention", in statements to local channel Libya al-Ahrar.
On Monday, the head of the Presidential Council (PC) Mohamad al-Manfi called for "help from brotherly and friendly countries and international organizations" and officially declared the cities of Derna, Shahat and al-Bayda in eastern Libya a "disaster zone", according to a statement on Facebook.