Libyan authorities have initiated an inquiry into the tragic collapse of two dams, which triggered a catastrophic flood in the coastal city of Derna. As rescue teams continue their grim search for victims, the devastating deluge has already claimed the lives of over 11,000 people.
The Deluge’s Devastation:
Last weekend, eastern Libya was pummeled by torrential rains brought by the Mediterranean storm Daniel, resulting in deadly flooding. Two dams, unable to withstand the deluge’s force, gave way, unleashing a torrent of water that inundated Derna’s heart. Entire neighborhoods were obliterated, and numerous individuals were swept out to sea, leaving over 10,000 individuals unaccounted for, as reported by the Libyan Red Crescent.
Ongoing Search and Recovery:
Six days have passed since the catastrophe, yet search and rescue teams are still laboring tirelessly through the mud and the wreckage, in a bid to locate bodies and any potential survivors. The Red Crescent has officially confirmed a staggering death toll of 11,300, with rescue workers making a grim discovery of additional bodies as recently as Friday.
Challenges and Concerns:
The magnitude of this tragedy calls for massive aid efforts, including urgent psychological support for those who have lost loved ones. Challenges persist in the burial of bodies despite some progress in coordinating search and rescue endeavors and distributing aid. Authorities and aid groups are also expressing concerns regarding the outbreak of waterborne diseases and the shifting of explosive ordnance from Libya’s recent conflicts.
Investigation and Accountability:
Libya’s General Prosecutor, al-Sediq al-Sour, has announced a comprehensive investigation into the collapse of the two dams, which were originally constructed in the 1970s, and the allocation of maintenance funds. He assured citizens that any individuals responsible for mistakes or negligence would face prosecution.
Heartbreaking Stories Emerge:
Tragic personal stories are surfacing amidst the chaos. One resident, Ayoub, recounted how his father and nephew lost their lives in Derna, just a day after escaping flooding in the nearby town of Bayda. His mother and sister narrowly escaped to the roof, but others were not as fortunate.
Identification and Closure:
Al-Sour, the top prosecutor, implored residents with missing relatives to report to a forensic committee tasked with documenting and identifying the retrieved bodies, seeking closure for grieving families.
Access Restrictions and Ongoing Efforts:
To facilitate search operations, Libyan authorities have imposed restrictions on access to the flooded city. It is believed that many bodies remain buried under the rubble or have been swept out into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Wider Impact:
The storm, which wreaked havoc on eastern Libya, affected towns such as Bayda, Susa, Marj, and Shahatt. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the region, seeking refuge in schools and government buildings. Tragically, numerous foreigners also lost their lives, including those fleeing conflict and turmoil in neighboring regions, as well as individuals working in or passing through Libya with dreams of migrating to Europe.