Libya floods: A barren wasteland with a lingering smell of death

The journey to the Libyan city of Derna takes twice as long now.

Driving along the road from Benghazi, fields turn into rust-red lakes. As you get closer, the traffic begins to slow. Telegraph poles pulled from the ground by the floodwaters now lie haphazardly. Cars creep around holes in the highway, on hastily dug detours carved out by diggers.

One of the closest bridges to Derna has been washed away completely. Locals stand near the ragged tarmac precipice, peering over and taking photos.

Not far beyond, soldiers hand out face masks to every car – for the driver, and each passenger. Everyone driving in the other direction is wearing them, and you soon realise why.

The smell of death in parts of the city feels almost impossible to describe. It fills your nostrils, part the scent of sewage, part something that’s harder to identify.

At times it is so strong it turns the stomach – especially as you stand overlooking the port where recovery teams tell me bodies are still washing up.

That morning they found three. Carried in on the tide, they get trapped in the mounds of debris slowly rotting in the seawater.

Broken wood, whole cars lifted and dropped on top of scattered sea defences, tyres, fridges – everything mingles and swirls together in the stagnant water.



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