Libya floods sweep away migrants, and their hopes

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STORY: Syrian teenager Ammar Kanaan had come to Libya to work and send money home.

His apartment, mere meters from the riverbed cutting through the city of Derna, represented a new start.

That’s until the building and its residents were dragged away by the deadly floods of September 10.

Now his family, who relied on him from afar as the breadwinner, has been left shell-shocked.

And without a body to bury.

Ammar Kanaan’s uncle Osama has come looking for his nephew following the devastation.

He said he had a conversation with Kanaan before heavy rains burst through two dams and swept countless people out to sea.

Kanaan had texted Osama, "God help us" and Osama's messages, just a few moments later, were left unread.

“I tried to call Ammar and to text him, I tried through the internet, there was no way to reach him. So, I started the trip to Derna, and thank God, I arrived. The road was tough and it’s only one road called Al Fataeh road, I arrived at the hospital in Tobruk; the people there told me the place where Ammar was staying is all swept away. They told me to check with the Red Crescent and the bodies, so I went to the Red Crescent and asked about the list of names for the missing people. I found nothing so I kept searching and when I felt desperate, I started searching among the names of the dead, but I also haven’t found his name.”

Kanaan and his two Sudanese roommates were among the estimated 400 migrants who died in the flood.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that when the floods hit, Derna was home to more than 8,000 migrants.

Kanaan left Syria two years ago aged 17, determined to avoid military service in a country riven by years of war, and looking for a job abroad to provide for his family.

And by 19, he was working a steady job at a pastry shop in Derna, earning $500 a month.

His uncle said the idea of embarking on a small dinghy to Europe had enticed him.

But his parents refused because, quote, “they thought he would drown”.

"He didn't take to the sea. The sea came to him," says Osama.