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Libya Floods: The Price Politics Paid

Devastation hits Libya due to a storm accompanying floods that occurred in mid-September of 2023. 


Although the main cause is evidently a drastic change in climate, the locals in addition to the wider global population are also faulting the government of Libya for the sudden ruins of the state.


The destruction rooted from Storm Daniel’s torrential rains burst two dams upstream from the deprived Libyan coastal city of Derna, which has a population of 90,000.


This flooding has caused thousands to be killed and entire sections of Derna to be washed away, with estimated numbers still rising as many dead bodies are reportedly yet to be found. 


International attention has soared within the past two weeks due to the scale of damage that has been cast over Libya becoming the core of recent global news. 


As the focus has turned to the 70 metre-tall described “embankment dam” completed in 1977, the public are categorising this as an avoidable disaster.

Local Impact:


In recent days, locals have been evidently traumatised by the continuous devastation the flood has caused, as the death toll is increasing, and the suffering is ongoing.


A sense of frustration, anger, and misery engulfs the citizens of Derna as residents accuse authorities of failing to maintain the dams that protected the city and the people. There is a global outcry from the city of Derna, demanding an investigation examining whether human failing was to blame for Libya’s worst natural disaster on record.


Libyans, such as journalist Abdulkader Assad, express their confusion with the aftermath of the disaster as “you have people who are pledging help, but the help is not coming” prolonging the suffering of locals.


Protests are occurring in the ruined city of Derna which has evolved from a natural disaster into a political storm causing more damage than what has already occurred.


As hundreds of demonstrators showed their fury with the political authorities of Libya, a demand for answers as for the events earlier that week. Taha Miftah, a demonstrator and resident of Derna, claimed that the protest was a message that “the governments have failed to manage the crisis” displaying the political frustration carried through the city.


Political Background of Libya:


2022 saw the split of Libya between the two rival governments: The Government of National Stability (GNS) and The Government of National Unity (GNU). 


In relation to the city of Derna, this part of the country is governed by politician and military commander Khalifa Haftar. This is in addition to being directed by a government established in parallel to the globally acknowledged administration in Tripoli, the capital of Libya situated in the west.


Alarm bells were raised prior to the floods that occurred on September 10th, 2023, as academic papers highlighted the city’s exposure to floods and the urgent requirement to uphold the maintenance of the dams.


Authorities have confirmed that maintenance has not been updated since 2002 as stated by Ahmed Madroud, Derna deputy mayor.


The fragile state of Libya:


With thousands of civilians still missing in the mass destruction the flood has left behind, anxiety runs through the heart of Derna as the search continues.


Though there are efforts to redirect blame away from Libyan authorities as Aguila Saleh, the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, labels the flood as an “unprecedented natural disaster”, diverting the focus away from the prevention that could have been in place. Despite this, “the wound or pain… hurt all the people from western Libya to southern Libya to eastern Libya” heightened by Libyan authorities’ political dysfunction and negligence adding to this catastrophe. 

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