Thousands were killed and missing in Derna, which was recently hit by Storm Daniel, leaving floods that caused the biggest natural disaster in its history.

Wael Hussein, an engineer working in Derna, told Sky News Arabia by phone: "There are dozens of bodies, including relatives of mine, lying on the remaining roads, swallowed by the sea, or lost among the rubble of destroyed houses submerged in mud."

"I have been working in Derna for years. I came from my vacation in Tripoli after the cyclone to check on my relatives and family and found the situation catastrophic. Many Palestinian families have been living in Derna for decades, as well as Egyptian, Syrian and other nationalities."

Hussein's communications network is cut off in Derna, and "those who want to communicate with the outside should stay about 40 kilometres outside the city".

The Palestinian engineer said: "There is no accurate information about the number of casualties. Among them are large numbers of Palestinian families who have lived in Derna for decades, and today they are buried by the court. There are many Palestinian families whose members have all died. We identified some of them while we are still looking for missing others."

"Storm Daniel blew over the region, leaving behind a major disaster like no other, followed by a hurricane and heavy rains the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime," Hussein said.

Dams cause

"Derna's geographical nature contributed to the disaster, as at the end of the city valleys meet and there are two dirt dams to the south that have been established since the seventies, and unfortunately they needed maintenance," he said.

He said: "Before the disaster at night, the dams were filled with water as a result of the abundance of rainwater, so the large dam, which is reserved behind a lake with a depth of about 50 meters and a width of 500 meters, collapsed at three in the morning and the residents were sleeping, and a large flood was born that swept away the city's houses, which are crossed by a small channel to drain rainwater."

"The amount of water in the stream was very large and bypassed the canal and washed away the land and buildings overlooking the valley, which led to the loss of a very large number of residents of the buildings adjacent to the stream. Libyan and Arab families have gone missing, and the search for the missing is still ongoing."

The eyewitness stated that he was "looking for people and relatives among the missing, including one of the sons of his relatives who went missing in front of his parents," and said: "Some families went missing, including the Abu Jabal family, the Nofal family, the Palestinian secret and other Libyan families. No accurate statistics yet. It's a real disaster."

Burial method

Hussein told Sky News Arabia: "The victims are buried by the prosecutor, where the bodies are collected in the hospital and those identified from family or relatives are given permission for burial, Palestinians, Libyans and other nationalities."

He continued: "The Libyan authorities have identified two burial sites for the victims of the Derna disaster, and mass burials are being carried out because there are a large number of victims, some of whom are unidentified."

"The country is in a gloomy atmosphere, psychological instability, outrage, and a loss of hope in knowing the fate of family and relatives," Hussein said.