‘Everything disappeared’

Discoveries have only brought heartbreak, Al-Shalwi said.

One of his brothers, a father of five, found the body of his 27-year-old wife and 18-month-old son in the sea 0.6 miles from the family home. They were found hugging each other close as the water lapped around them.

The rest of the children from that family are currently missing.

At least 11,300 people are so far confirmed to have died, according to the Libyan Red Crescent — a number many fear will rise in the hours and days ahead, as rescuers painstakingly search through rubble and seawater.

Mohamad Mahmoud Ismail Al-Shalwi's family, pictured above, are missing.
Mohamad Mahmoud Ismail Al-Shalwi’s family, pictured above, are missing. Courtesy Mohamad Mahmoud Ismail Al-Shalwi

Derna’s mayor on Thursday estimated that the floods may have killed as many as 20,000 out of the city’s population of 100,000.

Yet numbers and scenes beamed around the world on TV and social media are nothing in comparison to the reality, Al-Shalwi warned. The sea has taken the buildings, people, memories and history of an entire city.

“You are talking about total destruction. Nothing is there. It’s like Hiroshima,” he said. “When I’m telling you [it’s] total destruction, I mean it. There’s nothing left.”

Al-Shalwi described how aid workers find bodies and take them to the local hospital, where anxious families are waiting.

“Every day I’m going to the hospital to see if there’s a body, or if someone survived, if they are a member of the family. I’m dying every moment. I have hope that maybe one of my family will survive,” he said.


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