Destruction Flooding Event in Eastern Libya
Emergency personnel in eastern Libya are recovering nearly 1,500 dead from Derna, a city that was hit hard by the water. However, flooding destroyed dams and washed away neighbourhoods, raising concerns that the death toll may reach 5,000.
This unimaginable wreckage, caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel, highlights the storm’s severity and the nation’s vulnerability. Due to war between opposing administrations in the east and west, Libya has neglected key infrastructure in several places for over a decade.
More than 36 hours after the accident, outside help has started reaching Derna. The coastal city’s 89,000 inhabitants’ access roadways have been damaged by severe rains.
Upsetting Scenes and Rising Death Toll
Images and videos from the scene show blanketed remains in hospital complexes and vast graves full of dead. According to the eastern Libyan health minister, approximately 1,500 remains have been rescued and half were buried by Tuesday evening, but the dismal reality reveals a greater death toll. Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesman for the east Libya interior ministry, claims over 5,300 people died in Derna, while the ambulance authority recorded 2,300.
At least 10,000 people are still missing, and over 40,000 have been forced to flee their homes, according to Tamer Ramadan, the ambassador for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Libya.
Moroccan Earthquake Echoes
Tamer Ramadan has compared Libya’s predicament to Morocco’s earthquake, emphasising the necessity for quick humanitarian relief.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN is working with local, national, and international partners to quickly provide humanitarian relief to Libya.
The Disastrous Progression in Eastern Libya
Derna and other towns in eastern Libya wiped out by a severe storm. Wadi Derna, a river that runs from the highlands to the Mediterranean, saw flash floods. It happen when the dams outside the city broken by the relentless bombardment.
Local resident Ahmed Abdalla said that the water wall “erased everything in its way.” Whole communities on both sides of the river swept away in the mud and debris, as shown in YouTube videos posted by local residents. Backing up to the river, multi-story apartment buildings had their facades blown off and their concrete floors fractured. After the flood, cars began piling up.
Ahead of Time Warning and Bodies Trapped
The Libyan National Meteorological Centre said that 72 hours of prior notice given for the upcoming “extreme weather event” of Storm Daniel. Officials in the government were notified by email and the media to take safety measures. Bayda had a whopping 414.1 mm (16.3 inches) of rain on Sunday and Monday.
Volunteers, government employees, and civilians joined the local military in combing the rubble for bodies. The bodies dragged out of the sea by an inflatable boat. Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister for eastern Libya, says he fears many people swept away in the debris or drowned in the Mediterranean.
Factionalism and Neglect
After years of neglect, Derna’s enormous damage raises concerns about how the rains broke two dams outside the city. Some analysts believe the dam collapsed due to poor maintenance and heavy rain.
London-based Libya expert Jalel Harchaoui said that Derna neglected for years due to postponed maintenance. He also note factionalism, since Derna was formerly control by Islamic terrorist groups and transferred to the eastern government in 2019 after lengthy urban battles.
The Unity of Rivalry
Despite the continuing competition between the eastern administration in Benghazi and the western government in Tripoli, the immediate catastrophe response showed collaboration. The western Libyan government sent an aircraft with medical supplies and healthcare professionals to Benghazi and allocated funding for Derna and other eastern cities’ restoration. Egypt, Turkey, and the UAE sent rescue teams, while Germany, France, and Italy pledged help.
Ground conditions may hinder assistance and equipment movement to Derna. There are calls for a marine passage to distribute assistance.
After the accident, President Joe Biden said the US will send emergency cash to relief organisations and work with Libyan authorities and the U.N.
Eastern Libya Situation and Impact Beyond Derna
Storm Daniel also devastated eastern Libya, killing 50 in Bayda. Bayda’s major hospital, the Medical Centre, flooded, forcing patient evacuations. Susa, Marj, and Shahatt also hit, with hundreds of families fleeing to Benghazi and other eastern Libyan schools and government facilities. According to the World Bank, northeast Libya, particularly Jabal al-Akhdar, where numerous impacted communities situated, has one of the highest annual rainfall averages.