Libyan community members mourn devastation back home, local mosques raise funds for victims

Libyan community members living in Waterloo region and Guelph say there are no words to describe the devastation back home after floods wreaked havoc across the eastern part of the country.

Mosques in Kitchener and Waterloo are raising funds to send to victims of Libya flood and Morocco earthquake

A mosque in Waterloo.
Mosques in Waterloo and Kitchener are raising funds to help the victims of a deadly flood in Libya on Sept. 9 and the earthquake that hit in Morocco a day before. (Waterloo Masjid/ Facebook)

Libyan community members living in Waterloo region and Guelph say there are no words to describe the devastation back home after floods wreaked havoc across the eastern part of the country over the weekend of Sept. 9.

As of Friday, the death toll had increased to 11,300, and Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi, the mayor of Derna, said deaths in that city could reach 18,000 to 20,000, based on the extent of the damage. 

"We're still thinking, 'How could this happen?' We're lost with words. I don't know what to say," said Ismaeil Mazek, who's lived in the K-W area with his family for over two decades.

"The first few days we didn't realize the magnitude of the disaster. We could not imagine this could happen to Libya."

Mazek's relatives live in the eastern part of the country, in Benghazi, which he said only had some damage, but his wife still has family living in Derna. Mazek said they worried for their safety over several days after they learned about the floods.

"We couldn't reach them," he said, but luckily, "they are from the fortunate ones that survived," he added.

Mohamed Jadi, a practicing physician in Guelph who immigrated to Canada from Libya more than 20 years ago, said the devastation in the country is "heart breaking."

"It's beyond imagination. I've never ever dreamed that this would happen at all," he said.

His family in Libya live in the western area of the country, and as he flew to visit them on Friday, Jadi said he would be thinking of those who have lost their homes and family members.

"It's not a happy feeling like before," he said, noting his trip was planned before the floods happened.

A view from above a city with white buildings but much of the ground around them submerged in deep muddy water
A general view of the city of Derna is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Mediterranean storm Daniel caused devastating floods in Libya that broke dams and swept away entire neighborhoods in multiple coastal towns, the destruction appeared greatest in Derna city. (Jamal Alkomaty/The Associated Press)

Local mosques raise funds to help victims

Jadi and Mazek said the Libyan community is tight knit and many are currently trying to help where they can.

Mosques in Kitchener and Waterloo are raising funds after prayer services for the victims of the floods in Libya and the victims of a deadly earthquake that hit Morocco on Sept. 8.

"We know that what we will do is very little, but we will try to do our part," said Abdul Mannan Syed, the Imam at the Waterloo mosque.

"The need is huge, so we will try our best to motivate the people and encourage them to give as much as possible so aid and help can reach there, where they are really suffering and they are in need."

It's a gesture that Mazek said speaks to the unity of his community.

"We are one community here from all over the world. We worked together to bring aid to Libya, to Tunisia, to Egypt, to Syria," he said.

Mazek adds Libyans in London and across the region have also been raising funds to send to organizations who are directly working with families who were impacted.

Standing with the local Libyan community

The African Women's Alliance of Waterloo Region (AWAWR) says the group stands with the local Libyan and Moroccan community during this hard time. The group said on Facebook that its members are "thinking of the Libyans in Waterloo Region, especially those whose loved ones may be affected by this unimaginable tragedy."

"Our organization is an umbrella organization for all African communities, more so, we're talking about lives that were lost," Afdhilah Balogun, executive director of the AWAWR told CBC News. 

Balogun said the floods in Libya and the earthquake in Morocco has given the group a lot of think about. 

"We have been talking about about how can we do better as human beings to one another and in communities," she said.

Muslim Social Services Waterloo Region has also offered its counselling services for free to the local Libyan and Moroccan community.