Libyan Prime Minister Announces Division of Flood-Affected City to Mitigate Risk of Epidemic Outbreaks

by Ethan Kim
Derna flood disaster

Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of Libya’s eastern administration revealed on Tuesday that the city of Derna, severely affected by recent flooding, has been partitioned into four separate zones. This action is aimed at creating buffer areas to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics. The announcement comes a day after massive public demonstrations in the city called for immediate rebuilding efforts.

Last week, Mediterranean Storm Daniel led to the failure of two dams, unleashing torrents of water that ravaged through Derna. Varying estimates of the death toll have been provided by governmental agencies and humanitarian organizations, ranging from approximately 4,000 to as high as 11,000 individuals.

During a telephonic conversation with Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi-owned channel, Prime Minister Hamad stated that the impacted areas are now entirely isolated. “In anticipation of potential disease outbreaks, the military and governmental bodies have initiated the establishment of buffer zones,” Hamad elaborated. No additional information was offered during the interview.

In a related development, reports from local media outlets confirmed that internet services were disrupted in the eastern regions of the country on Tuesday morning.

On the preceding Monday, the United Nations issued a cautionary statement indicating that the onset of a disease epidemic could exacerbate the already severe crisis.

In Derna’s first large-scale protest since the flooding incident, demonstrators congregated outside the al-Shabana mosque on Monday. Calls were made for an expedited inquiry into the disaster, the rapid reconstruction of the city, and other pressing concerns.

Later on Monday, former Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi reported that his residence was set ablaze by protesters. Legal authorities initiated a probe on Saturday to investigate the collapse of the two dams, originally constructed in the 1970s, along with scrutiny into the allocation of their maintenance funds. al-Gaithi was suspended from his role pending the outcome of the investigation.

Public sentiment largely holds political figures responsible for the current crisis. Since 2014, Libya has been split between two competing administrations, both backed by international supporters and armed militias. Their influence has surged since the 2011 NATO-supported Arab Spring uprising ousted long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Despite the deployment of humanitarian teams by both administrations, the overall disaster relief response has been critically hampered by poor coordination. According to local residents, aid has been distributed inconsistently.

There is considerable discrepancy in the reported death tolls and statistical data, as released by multiple authoritative organizations.

Bashir Omar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, stated on Tuesday that search and rescue operations continue, with teams still discovering bodies amidst the rubble and in the sea. Although he confirmed that the number of fatalities was in the thousands, Omar refrained from providing a precise number, citing the involvement of multiple organizations in the body-recovery efforts.

Last week, the Libyan Red Crescent reported that at least 11,300 individuals have lost their lives in the disaster, with an additional 10,000 reported missing. Contradicting earlier figures, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is now quoting substantially lower numbers, estimating approximately 4,000 fatalities and 9,000 missing persons.

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News correspondents Jack Jeffery in London and Samy Magdy in Cairo.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Derna flood disaster

What measures has the Libyan government taken in response to the Derna flood disaster?

The Libyan government’s eastern administration, led by Prime Minister Ossama Hamad, has divided the flood-affected city of Derna into four separate zones. This partitioning is intended to serve as a buffer to mitigate the risk of disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Who announced the division of Derna into four zones?

Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of Libya’s eastern administration announced the division of Derna into four zones. The announcement was made during a telephone interview with Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV.

How many people are estimated to have died in the Derna flood disaster?

The death toll estimates for the Derna flood disaster vary significantly, ranging from approximately 4,000 to as high as 11,000 according to different governmental agencies and humanitarian organizations.

What led to the flooding in Derna?

The flooding was triggered by the collapse of two dams during Mediterranean Storm Daniel, resulting in torrents of water sweeping through the city.

Have there been any public protests following the flood?

Yes, a large-scale demonstration took place outside Derna’s al-Shabana mosque, where protesters called for an expedited inquiry into the disaster and the immediate reconstruction of the city, among other demands.

What is the United Nations’ stance on the situation?

The United Nations warned that the risk of a disease outbreak could result in a second devastating crisis for the already beleaguered city of Derna.

Is there an ongoing investigation into the flood and its causes?

Yes, legal authorities have initiated a probe into the collapse of the two dams that were originally built in the 1970s. The investigation also extends to the allocation of maintenance funds for these dams.

What is the public opinion regarding the role of politicians in the crisis?

Many of Derna’s residents hold political figures responsible for the crisis. Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival administrations, both of which are backed by international patrons and armed militias.

Are international organizations involved in the relief efforts?

Yes, international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations are involved in the relief and recovery operations. However, the coordination of these efforts has been criticized as poor.

Are there conflicting reports on the number of fatalities and missing persons?

Yes, there are conflicting reports regarding the death toll and the number of missing persons. While the Libyan Red Crescent initially reported 11,300 fatalities and an additional 10,000 missing, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs later cited lower figures.

More about Derna flood disaster

  • Derna Flood Crisis: Official Announcement
  • United Nations Warning on Derna Situation
  • Al-Arabiya Interview with Prime Minister Ossama Hamad
  • Local Media Reports on Internet Outage in Eastern Libya
  • International Committee of the Red Cross Statement on Derna
  • Public Protests in Derna: Eyewitness Accounts
  • Investigation into Dam Failures and Maintenance Funds
  • Libyan Red Crescent’s Initial Death Toll Estimates
  • Conflicting Death Toll Reports by U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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Samantha O'Neil September 19, 2023 - 11:27 am

Can’t believe the death toll estimates are so varied. From 4,000 to 11,000? That’s a huge gap! What’s going on?

John Smith September 19, 2023 - 11:57 am

Wow, this situation in Derna sounds dire. dividing the city into zones? That’s pretty serious stuff, man.

KarenD September 19, 2023 - 12:17 pm

The UN’s warning about a second crisis is really alarming. As if they don’t have enough to deal with.

Rachel_M September 20, 2023 - 5:28 am

Heartbreaking to read abt the ongoing recovery efforts. Poor coordination seems to be a global problem in disasters, huh.

Tim_R September 20, 2023 - 5:49 am

Why does it always seem like politicians get the blame? I mean, yeah they have a role, but aren’t these natural disasters?

Alan S September 20, 2023 - 8:03 am

Suspended the former mayor, huh? Wonder if that’ll actually do anything for the city. It feels like a way to just place blame.

Mike_47 September 20, 2023 - 10:25 am

So the internet’s down too in eastern Libya? Man, these guys are dealing with a lot all at once.


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