On 14 September, reports indicated at least 8,000 people had died and 10,000 were still missing, amidst a fast-rising death toll from the tsunami-like storm.
The storm made landfall on the eastern coast of Libya on 10 September, striking cities, among others, Benghazi, Cyrene, Al-Bayda, Al-Marji, and the sea port of Derna. Derna was particularly hard-hit with authorities saying 25 percent of the city had been destroyed.
Archbishop Samy Fawzy of the Alexandria Region of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church expressed regret, “over this disaster that has claimed the lives of many of our brothers and sisters in Libya.”
“[We are] praying for mercy and peace for the families of the victims and a complete recovery for the injured,” said Fawzy in a brief statement. His diocese, formerly within the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, extends to over 10 countries including Libya, Ethiopia, and Egypt.
Libya has been in chaos since the overthrow of strongman Muammar Gadhafi in 2011. Two authorities, the UN-recognised Government of National Unity in the west and the National Army of Stability in the east, are competing to rule the oil-rich country.
On 11 September, government officials appealed to friendly nations and international relief organizations to send help to the communities affected by the floods. The authorities announced a three-day mourning period in the affected area which were earlier declared disaster zones.
Archbishop Fawzy welcomed his government’s response, after it ordered quick humanitarian aid by sea and air to Libya, and Morocco which is reeling from an earthquake disaster.
According to news reports, the latest disaster is the worst in eastern Libya since 1963, when an earthquake tore through the city of Al-Marji.
Libya is more than 90 percent Muslim, with Christian communities being a minority. The Coptic Orthodox are the largest Christian group, but there is a population of Roman Catholic. In the capital Tripoli, there is an Anglican congregation composed of refugees and migrant workers.
Faith-based relief agencies alongside the UN agencies and partners are mounting a response to the disaster. The UK-based Islamic Relief Worldwide said it was working with local partners to deliver food packs, blankets, mattresses, and vital aid.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have warned that the death toll is huge, while Margaret Harris, spokesperson of the UN World Health Organization said the flooding of “epic proportions” had affected 1.8 million people as it damaged and destroyed hospitals.
“There’s not been a storm like this in the region in living memory, so it’s a shock,” said Harris.
Meanwhile, some church leaders and climate activists stress that this is part of the global climate crisis.
“The Libyan disaster is very terrible,” said Rev. Nicta Lubaale, general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches. “But we need to sober up. When the conversation is done, then where are we? I see a lot of focus on mitigation, but there is a question of adaptation. The question of loss and damage.”