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Demanding Accountability and Reckoning in the Aftermath of the Libya Floods

by Ryan Lee
5 comments
Libya Floods Accountability

Survivors of the catastrophic floods that struck eastern Libya on the evening of September 10 are left grappling with grief and loss. Among them is Abdel-Hamid al-Hassadi, a 23-year-old law graduate, who managed to survive the deluge but tragically lost around 90 members of his extended family.

As heavy rains pounded the city of Derna that fateful night, al-Hassadi, along with his mother and elder brother, sought refuge on higher ground. Their city soon transformed into a scene of devastation, with torrents of water obliterating buildings in their vicinity. Al-Hassadi vividly recounted the horrors: “We witnessed the magnitude of the catastrophe. We have seen our neighbors’ dead bodies washing away in the floods.”

The calamity was triggered by heavy rains from Mediterranean storm Daniel, leading to the collapse of two dams that spanned the narrow valley dividing the city. This unleashed a colossal wall of water that inundated Derna.

Ten days later, al-Hassadi and thousands of others remain in Derna, anxiously awaiting news of missing relatives. In his case, it’s the 290 relatives still unaccounted for.

Reports from officials indicate that the floods submerged up to a quarter of the city, claiming thousands of lives. However, the exact death toll remains uncertain, with various figures provided by government officials and aid agencies. The World Health Organization reports 3,958 deaths registered in hospitals, while the head of Libya’s Red Crescent suggested at least 11,300 casualties. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that at least 9,000 people are still missing.

Amid this tragedy, many Derna residents, including women and children, gather at body collection points, desperately seeking information about the contents of ambulances carrying body bags.

Anas Aweis, a 24-year-old resident who lost two brothers, exemplifies the heart-wrenching search for loved ones. He went to a school in the city’s Sheiha neighborhood, where authorities posted photos of retrieved bodies. “It’s chaos,” he lamented, emphasizing the need to locate the burial sites of the deceased.

The floods have forced at least 40,000 people to flee eastern Libya, including 30,000 from Derna, according to the U.N.’s migration agency. These displaced individuals have sought refuge in other Libyan cities, where local communities and schools provide shelter. However, remaining in Derna poses health risks, including the potential for waterborne diseases.

Rana Ksaifi, assistant chief of mission in Libya for the U.N.’s refugee agency, underscores the devastating impact of the floods, which have exacerbated the displacement crisis in this already conflict-ridden nation.

Abdul Salam Anwisi, who survived the floods on the rooftop of his building, now confronts the daunting task of rebuilding his life. His apartment on the fourth floor was spared, but the water-damaged remnants of his home leave his future uncertain.

As survivors cope with the aftermath, calls for accountability and justice resonate across Libya. Furious protestors gathered outside Derna’s main mosque, venting their frustration at the government’s perceived lack of preparedness and response. They directed their anger at the political elite, who have controlled the oil-rich nation since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Libya has experienced a tumultuous decade, marked by chaos and division. Two rival administrations govern the country, one in the west supported by lawless militias and armed groups, and the other in the east allied with the Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. Dissent is scarcely tolerated in this deeply fragmented landscape.

Derna and most of eastern Libya are under the control of Hifter’s forces, while funds for municipalities and government agencies are administered by the rival government in Tripoli.

Al-Hassadi, the law graduate, places blame on local authorities for issuing conflicting warnings that left residents vulnerable. Evacuation orders along the Mediterranean coast were issued alongside curfews that prevented people from leaving their homes, leading to a tragic mistake, as he asserts.

The dams responsible for protecting Derna, namely Abu Mansour and Derna, were constructed by a Yugoslav company in the 1970s. However, years of neglect rendered them incapable of withstanding the unprecedented influx of water.

In the wake of this disaster, many Libyans are calling for international investigations and oversight of aid funds. As rights activist Tarik Lamloum succinctly puts it, “All are corrupt here… without exception.”

(Note: This paraphrased and completed text retains the seriousness and formality required for articles intended for a serious business audience.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Libya Floods Accountability

Q: What caused the devastating floods in eastern Libya?

A: The catastrophic floods in eastern Libya were triggered by heavy rains from Mediterranean storm Daniel, which led to the collapse of two dams, inundating the city of Derna.

Q: How many casualties were reported as a result of the floods?

A: The exact death toll remains uncertain, with varying figures from different sources. The World Health Organization reports 3,958 deaths registered in hospitals, while other estimates, such as that from the head of Libya’s Red Crescent, suggest at least 11,300 casualties. Additionally, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that at least 9,000 people are still missing.

Q: What challenges are survivors facing in the aftermath of the floods?

A: Survivors in Derna are grappling with grief and loss, as they anxiously await word about missing relatives. Many are also coping with the displacement of at least 40,000 people in eastern Libya, along with the potential health risks associated with staying in the flood-affected areas.

Q: What are the demands being made by protestors in Derna?

A: Protestors in Derna are demanding accountability from Libya’s political leaders, criticizing the government’s perceived lack of preparedness and response to the floods. They are also calling for an investigation into the handling of aid funds.

Q: What factors contributed to the failure of the dams meant to protect Derna?

A: The dams, Abu Mansour and Derna, were built by a Yugoslav construction company in the 1970s. However, years of neglect and lack of maintenance rendered them unable to withstand the exceptional influx of water caused by the heavy rains.

Q: Are there calls for international involvement in addressing the aftermath of the floods?

A: Yes, many Libyans are calling for international investigations and supervision of aid funds to ensure transparency and accountability in the recovery efforts.

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5 comments

NewsNerd55 September 20, 2023 - 8:37 am

heavy rains caused the flood, so sad. ppl can’t even find their fam. hope they get justice!

Reply
ActivistJane September 20, 2023 - 9:42 am

dis is y we need better dam maintenance. those poor ppl suffering.

Reply
Reader123 September 20, 2023 - 6:22 pm

wow, this is a srsly sad story. so many ppl affected by floods. need 2 hold those leaders accountable!

Reply
GlobalCitizen22 September 20, 2023 - 6:51 pm

dis is terrible, Libya needs international help. they’re suffering so much.

Reply
CuriousGeorge September 21, 2023 - 12:46 am

so many dif numbers for deaths. WHO says one thing, Red Crescent says another. confusing.

Reply

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