DERNA, Libya (Agencies): Libyan authorities have initiated an investigation into the catastrophic collapse of two dams that triggered a devastating flood in a coastal city. As rescue teams continue their efforts to locate bodies and potential survivors, the aftermath of the deluge, which occurred nearly a week ago, has tragically claimed the lives of over 11,000 people.
The calamity unfolded as heavy rains, spawned by the Mediterranean storm Daniel, wreaked havoc across eastern Libya the previous weekend. The ensuing floods overwhelmed the two dams, unleashing a colossal wall of water that surged several meters through the heart of Derna, obliterating entire neighborhoods and sweeping residents out to sea.
According to the Libyan Red Crescent, more than 10,000 individuals are still unaccounted for, casting a grim shadow over the ongoing search and rescue operations. To date, the Red Crescent has confirmed a staggering death toll of 11,300.
Claire Nicolet, who leads the emergencies department of Doctors Without Borders, reported that rescuers had discovered “a lot of bodies” on Friday and continued their search efforts. She expressed sorrow over the ongoing recovery of deceased individuals washed ashore by the sea.
Efforts for rehabilitation and support remain paramount, including the urgent provision of psychological aid to those who have lost their loved ones. Challenges persist, notably in handling the burial process, despite some headway in coordinating search and rescue initiatives and aid distribution.
Al-Sediq Al-Sour, Libya’s General Prosecutor, announced that prosecutors would probe the dam collapses and the allocation of maintenance funds. The investigation extends to local authorities in the city and previous governments. Al-Sour reassured citizens that those found culpable of negligence or errors would face legal action.
The situation in Libya, however, remains complicated due to years of political instability and conflict since the NATO-backed uprising in 2011. Infrastructure, including vital dams, has suffered from neglect amid this turbulent period.
Local officials in Derna had issued warnings to the public about the impending storm, urging residents to evacuate coastal areas. Unfortunately, no prior alerts were given regarding the dams, which collapsed in the early hours of Monday when most residents were asleep.
A state-run audit agency’s report from 2021 revealed that the dams had not undergone maintenance despite the allocation of over $2 million for this purpose in 2012 and 2013. A Turkish firm, Arsel Construction Company Limited, was contracted in 2007 for maintenance and construction work on the dams, completing its work in November 2012.
Local and international rescue teams continue their relentless search for bodies and potential survivors in Derna, a city of 90,000 people. Many families, like Ayoub’s, have been devastated by the tragedy, with loved ones lost to the floodwaters.
As the recovery effort unfolds, Libyan authorities urge residents with missing relatives to report to a forensic committee tasked with documenting and identifying the recovered bodies. Access to the flood-affected city has been restricted to facilitate search and recovery operations, given that many victims may be buried under rubble or carried out to sea.
The devastating storm has also affected other regions in eastern Libya, displacing tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in schools and government buildings. The flood claimed the lives of numerous foreigners, including those fleeing conflict and unrest in the region, as well as individuals who had arrived in Libya for work or as part of their journey to Europe. Among the victims were 74 men from a village in Egypt and numerous individuals from war-torn Syria.