With thousands dead after disastrous floods, Libya’s new threat is water contamination


Important Takeaways:

  • Health authorities have been sounding the alarm over the spread of waterborne diseases in the affected areas, particularly in the hard-hit city of Derna.
  • Experts have warned that floodwaters have severely contaminated water sources with sewage, rendering them unsafe for consumption and exposing communities to grave health risks.
  • The response has ranged from evacuating stranded residents and providing medical aid and essential supplies to securing safe water and sanitation equipment in order to prevent diseases from taking hold.
  • Aid groups are also calling people to avoid rushing towards mass burials or carrying out mass cremations
  • In a joint statement, the WHO and the ICRC said the bodies of victims of natural disaster “almost never” pose a health danger but also warned that “bodies should not be left in contact with drinking water sources” as they may leak feces that could lead to contamination.

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Devastating flash flooding in Libya leaves 5,000+ dead


Important Takeaways:

  • The number of people killed by the devastating flash flooding in northern Libya remained unclear Thursday, due to the daunting scale of the catastrophe…but it was undoubtedly well into the thousands.
  • An enormous surge of water, brought by torrential downpours from Storm Daniel over the weekend, burst two upstream river dams and reduced the city of Derna to an apocalyptic wasteland where entire blocks and untold numbers of people were washed into the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Hundreds of body bags lined its mud-caked streets Thursday, awaiting mass burials, as traumatized and grieving residents search mangled buildings for the missing and bulldozers worked to clear streets.
  • More than 3,000 bodies had been buried in Derna alone, while another 2,000 were still being processed. He said most of the dead were buried in mass graves outside the city, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
  • An official with the U.N.’s World Health Organization in Libya told the AP the number of fatalities could reach 7,000, given how many people were still missing, adding that “the numbers could surprise and shock all of us.”
  • Speaking to the Al Arabia television network, Derna’s Mayor Abdel-Raham al-Ghaithi said the final death toll could even be as high as 20,000.

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Italy would ‘positively consider’ U.S. request to use airbases for Libya strikes

A Danish F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from the tarmac of the Sigonella NATO Airbase on the southern Italian island of Sicily, Italy

ROME (Reuters) – Italy signaled it would most likely allow the use of its airbases and airspace for strikes against Islamic State militants in Libya if the United States asks, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said on Wednesday.

“The government is ready to consider positively a request to use airbases and national airspace, and support the operation, if it is believed that it would lead to a more rapid and effective conclusion of the ongoing action,” Pinotti said in testimony to the lower house of parliament.

U.S. planes began bombing Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday at the request of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli to help push militants from their former stronghold of Sirte.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Stefano Bernabei, editing by Isla Binnie)

IEA expects OPEC production will fall this year

An oil pump jack can be seen in Cisco, Texas, August 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stone

By Sarah McFarlane

LONDON (Reuters) – Crude prices firmed on Thursday after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said non-OPEC production would fall this year by the most in a generation and help rebalance a market dogged by oversupply.

IEA chief Fatih Birol said low oil prices had cut investment by about 40 percent over the past two years, with sharp falls in the United States, Canada, Latin America and Russia.

Benchmark Brent crude futures were up 12 cents at $45.92 a barrel by 1204 GMT. U.S. crude futures were 4 cents higher at $44.22. Both have gained about 70 percent from lows hit between January and February.

“It looks very strong at the moment, sentiment is bullish, technicals look fine, so I rather see prices rising further from here,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.

The drop in supply from some producers, however, could be offset by increased output in countries such as Russia and Iran.

Russia’s energy minister said it might push oil production to historic highs and Iran has reiterated its intention to reach output of 4 million barrels per day after a global deal to freeze output collapsed and Saudi Arabia threatened to flood markets with more crude.

Libya could also rapidly ramp up oil production as soon as stability returns, the head of Libya National Oil Corporation (NOC) told an oil summit in Paris.

Nigeria will hold talks with Saudi Arabia, Iran and other producers by May, hoping to reach a deal on an output freeze at the next OPEC meeting in June, where it is expected to be a key item on the agenda.

“The focus of the market is primarily on price-supportive news and that’s just an indication of how sentiment is,” Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.

Hansen said fund flows into commodities had been strong this week, driven by a weaker dollar.

The U.S. currency hit 10-month lows against some commodity-related currencies earlier this week. The Thomson Reuters Core Commodity Index rose to its highest since early December. [MKTS/GLOB]

“This whole recovery has been driven by supply being capped and supply is price sensitive and again we’re back to levels where we could see some of these producers breathe again,” Hansen said.

French bank BNP Paribas said any hope of the oil market rebalancing from the current surplus relied on a predicted decline in U.S. oil production.

“The U.S. accounts for the bulk of non-OPEC’s 2016 oil supply contraction of 700,000 barrels per day forecast. If the decline in the U.S. oil supply proves insufficient to tighten balances, then … the oil price will remain low,” it said.

In refined products, China’s exports of diesel and gasoline soared, spilling surplus fuel onto a market that is already well supplied, and threatening to cut Asian benchmark refining margins further.

(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; editing by David Evans and David Clarke)

Up to 500 migrants might have drowned in crammed ship

Migrants sit in a rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by SOS Mediterranee ship Aquarius off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa

ROME (Reuters) – Up to 500 migrants might have drowned in the Mediterranean last week when human traffickers crammed people onto an already overcrowded ship, causing it to sink, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.

Somalia’s government said on Monday about 200 or more Somalis may have died in the tragedy while trying to cross illegally to Europe. After talking to survivors, the UNHCR agency said the overall death toll might have been much higher.

“If confirmed, as many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy,” the UNHCR said.

The agency said the survivors – 37 men, three women and a three-year-old child – were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Greece on April 16.

They recounted that they had been among 100 to 200 people who set sail from Libya last week headed for Italy. After several hours at sea, the traffickers tried to move them onto a bigger ship that was already packed with migrants.

This ship sank before the survivors could board it. They then drifted at sea for up to three days before being saved. The group was made up of 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, six Egyptians and one Sudanese national.

The Somali government said on Monday that the capsized boat had set sail from Egypt.

News of the disaster emerged on the first anniversary of one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean in recent times, when an estimated 800 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast after the fishing boat they were sailing in collided with a mercantile vessel that had been attempting to rescue them.

Some 150,000 migrants reached Italy by boat in 2015, the vast majority sailing from Libya. So far this year, about 25,000 migrants have arrived, an increase of 4.7 percent over the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry data.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Tom Heneghan)