Flooding in Libya

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Drops of rain cover a glass pane through which a blue sky and green foliage can be discerned.
A window from which to look out at the rain takes on new meaning in this context. NickyPe via Pixabay

Storm Daniel, aging infrastructure, and internal conflict are all linked to the devastating proportions of flooding

Libya is experiencing one of the deadliest, most catastrophic floods in recent years and the pictures from the disaster are not even close to showing how grim things are.  

These floods were brought about by Storm Daniel, also called Cyclone Daniel, which swept its way through the Mediterranean Sea hitting Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria before reaching Libya.  

The storm brought torrential rain upon eastern Libya. On the night of September 10, two old and poorly maintained dams collapsed in the aftermath. The water swept through Derna which is the epicentre of the disaster and its neighbouring cities. Buildings, homes, and infrastructure were wiped out as the water swept through the cities killing thousands and displacing many thousands more.  

As per the latest reports, around 11,000 people are dead, 10,000 are missing, 34,000 have been displaced, and the numbers continue to rise as bodies keep washing up the shore. Assistance from the European Union and the United Nations (UN) mobilized soon after the disaster. The access to these areas, however, has been difficult due to the flood. Rescue missions continue despite difficulties and one can only hope that more people are saved.  

People have been made houseless and isolated with limited to no amenities. Rescuers fear that many survivors might not be found until it’s too late. With their families displaced, homes wrecked, and no means of contact, one can barely imagine the fear, uncertainty, and misery that the people in the flood-hit areas are going through. Various funds have also been set up where donations can be made to help the people in Libya.  

Libya’s geographical location near the Mediterranean Sea makes it more prone to flooding. Such being the case, Libya has experienced at least five disastrous floods since 1942, the latest being the one in 2011. The increasing frequency and intensity of these floods can be attributed to the effects of climate change. The magnitude of the current disaster, however, cannot be blamed solely on climate change. Aging dams, missed warnings, and poor infrastructure contributed significantly to the deadliness of the calamity.  

According to reports by Al Jazeera, the dams that collapsed had not undergone maintenance since 2002, despite warnings in a paper from Libya’s Sebha University that the dams had a high potential for flood risk and needed regular maintenance to avoid catastrophic flooding. No efforts were made toward ensuring proper maintenance of these dams, even following the release of that paper, and the consequences are unmistakably apparent.  

The UN believes that many human casualties could have been avoided and that poor management and unpreparedness for the coming disaster made things worse. With better functioning coordination in the crisis-wracked country, “they could have issued the warnings and the emergency management forces would have been able to carry out the evacuation of the people, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties,” said Petteri Taalas, head of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.  

As the country battles through one of the worst incidents of natural calamity, it is essential that the people in authority take culpability and responsibility of the actions that could have been taken to avoid such unimaginable outcomes. Our hearts, hopes, and prayers go to the people of Libya.    

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