Devastating Floods in Libya Leave Thousands Missing and a Catastrophic Situation
Libya is reeling from catastrophic floods that have left approximately 10,000 people missing, according to reports. The Mediterranean storm named Daniel struck the country, causing extensive destruction and flash flooding, with the worst-hit area being Derna, where heavy rainfall led to the collapse of dams and the disappearance of entire communities.
A Grim Situation
Libya’s eastern government health minister, Othman Abduljaleel, described the situation as catastrophic. Many bodies remain unattended in various parts of Derna, and hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties. In addition, some areas are still inaccessible to rescuers, compounding the challenge of assessing the full extent of the disaster.
Unprecedented Flooding and Estimated Death Toll
Derna was declared a disaster zone, and initial estimates suggested that as many as 2,000 people may have perished in the city alone. The Ambulance and Emergency Authority reported about 2,300 deaths in Derna, but the basis for this figure remains unclear. Tamer Ramadan, Libya envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, indicated that 10,000 people are missing, and the death toll could be in the thousands.
Dire Conditions and a Plea for International Assistance
Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of eastern Libya highlighted that many of the missing individuals were likely swept away when two upstream dams burst. The scale of devastation in Derna exceeds the capabilities of the country’s resources, requiring international intervention. The chaotic situation has led to the loss of lives among emergency responders, emphasizing the perilous nature of the rescue efforts.
A Troubled Nation and Infrastructure
Libya has been plagued by a decade of chaos, resulting in a divided nation with two rival administrations—one in the east and one in the west. This division, supported by different militias and foreign governments, has left the country with crumbling infrastructure and inadequate resources to address such disasters effectively.
Devastation in Derna and Surrounding Areas
Residential areas in Derna along the Wadi Derna river were completely wiped out, with multi-story apartment buildings partially collapsing into mud. The devastation extended to other eastern Libyan towns like Bayda, Susa, Marj, and Shahatt. Families were displaced, and emergency shelters were set up in cities like Benghazi.
Agricultural Region Hit Hard
The Jabal al-Akhdar area in northeastern Libya, which includes Bayda, Marj, and Shahatt, is known for its fertile land and greenery. It experiences some of the highest average annual rainfall in the country, making it particularly vulnerable to flooding.
International Aid and Support
Efforts to assist affected areas have garnered support from several countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. These nations have pledged humanitarian assistance and rescue teams. The United States Embassy is also exploring avenues to provide aid to the hardest-hit regions.
Libya’s Complex Political Landscape
Since the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has struggled with political fragmentation, lack of governance, and widespread lawlessness. This has resulted in inadequate investment in infrastructure and public services, contributing to the challenges faced during natural disasters like the recent floods.
Derna’s Historical Significance
Derna, known for its white-painted houses and palm gardens, has historical ties to Italian occupation during the early 20th century. It has experienced periods of instability and was once controlled by extremist groups, including those affiliated with the Islamic State. However, forces loyal to eastern-based military commander Khalifa Hifter expelled these groups in 2018. Derna remains under Hifter’s control, while western Libya, with its capital in Tripoli, supports a different government backed by various armed groups.