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Edmonton Libyan community fundraising to help those affected by deadly flood back home


Libyan Edmontonians are working to get supplies to family and friends who have been affected by flooding in the eastern part of their home country. 

Heavy rains from the Mediterranean storm Daniel caused the collapse of two dams on Monday, sending water several metres high gushing through the port city Derna. 

Authorities say 11,000 have already been declared dead and believe another 10,000 missing people were killed, too. 

"We have people that are from here in Edmonton that got news that their siblings and their whole families were passed away," Libyan Edmontonian Mabrouka Swenia told CTV News Edmonton on Thursday. 

"Whole family trees just wiped out."

Libyan Edmontonian Mabrouka Swenia speaks to CTV News Edmonton on Sept. 14, 2023, about her restaurant, The Bedouins, donating 15 per cent of its sales to Libya flooding relief.

Her parents were born and raised in Libya and eventually immigrated to Canada. Her husband's family is from the flooded region and his parents, siblings and their families remain there. 

"It was quite a harrowing experience having to call family and make sure everyone was safe there," Swenia said. 

In Edmonton, Swenia runs The Bedouins, a restaurant in northwest Edmonton serving Arabian and North African cuisine. 

Fifteen per cent of the business' sales between Sept. 14 and 17 will be donated to Libya relief aid initiatives. 

"If I could buy diapers, formula, medication, for what is needed right now – that's great," she said. 

Swenia told CTV News Edmonton she is "very close" to Libya. 

"We visit quite often. When my kids ask me where we're from: you're Canadian Libyans," she said. 

"Libya, we're a strong people, we're a resilient people. But that does not mean we don't need support. What's happened to them is the first time it's ever happened in modern history of Libya and it happened to them in the middle of the night while they were sleeping."

A man walks by the graves of the flash flood victims in Derna, Libya, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. The death toll in Libya's coastal city of Derna has soared to over ten thousand as search efforts continue following a massive flood fed by the breaching of two dams in heavy rains, the Libyan Red Crescent said Thursday. (AP Photo/Yousef Murad)

She also called on the Canadian government to help in any way it can, noting Libya's civil conflict has hampered its ability to help citizens. 

"This is a call directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Why not Libya? This is something that they need."

Officials say the death toll could climb higher because of extra danger in the water: firstly, disease and contamination; secondly, undetected landmines and other explosive remnants that may have been shifted by the flooding. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Brandon Lynch Top Stories

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