Storm Daniel, notorious in the Mediterranean for causing a world of harm in places such as Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, made its dreadful mark on the North African country of Libya too. The storm roared through the nation, trailing death and destruction in its wake. Heavy downpours caused two dams near Derna, a city nestled on Libya’s northeastern coast, to burst open. This catastrophe resulted in entire districts being swept clean off the map. Tragically, thousands of locals either perished or vanished without a trace. A firsthand look at this bleak scene reveals a heart-wrenching tableau of devastation.
Devastating Toll on Life
- The Libyan Red Crescent estimates that the death toll has surpassed 11,300, with another 10,100 reported missing.
- World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate nearly 4,000 identified dead bodies and more than 9,000 people still unaccounted for.
- The interior minister of the government in eastern Libya, Essam Abu Zeriba, stated more than 2,700 deaths and over 2,500 missing reports.
World Health Organization’s official website confirms the grim situation, with Dr. Ahmed Zouiten commenting on the event as “a disaster of epic proportions.”
Derna: The Epicenter of the Catastrophe
The Wadi Derna dam’s collapse in Derna, a city with approximately 100,000 residents, was particularly catastrophic. Buildings were destroyed, vehicles submerged, and bodies were found scattered in the streets. Derna now stands as a disaster zone, with communication and electricity cut off. An assessment team’s account depicts the horrifying reality: around a quarter of the city destroyed and desperate citizens returning to their ravaged homes. Survivors are still being pulled from the rubble days after the tragedy.
Questions on Preparedness
Given Libya’s political unrest over the past decade, maintaining infrastructure has been a significant challenge. The country, divided between a western administration in Tripoli and an eastern authority, failed to ensure the safety of its dams. Reports suggest negligence even when the storm had already affected other Mediterranean countries. Concerns grow about the structural integrity of other dams, including the Jaza dam and Qattara dam near Benghazi. However, the government assures that both are under control. An investigation into the dam collapses has been ordered by Libya’s chief prosecutor.
Rescue and Relief Operations
Giving aid is becoming more intense, but reaching the worst-hit areas, particularly Derna, continues to be tricky because of the damage caused by floods on the roads. Global search and rescue squads from countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, and Spain have been brought into action. Assistance has also been provided from Tripoli, dispatching supplies toward Benghazi.
- WHO has dispatched 29 metric tons of health supplies to Benghazi from their Global Logistics Hub in Dubai.
- The supplies include medicines, trauma and emergency surgery supplies, medical equipment, and body bags.
President Biden has announced the U.S. commitment to provide emergency funds to relief organizations, coordinating with Libyan authorities and the United Nations. Several European nations, including Britain, France, and Germany, have also pledged humanitarian support.
The catastrophe has posed numerous challenges for the authorities and international aid agencies:
- Infrastructure Repair: The immediate need is the restoration of damaged roads, bridges, and communication lines to ensure aid reaches the most affected areas. With Derna’s roads flooded, relief is facing significant delays.
- Disease Prevention: With thousands dead and bodies washing ashore, there’s an imminent threat of waterborne diseases. The sealing off of Derna, as suggested by some officials, might be a necessary step to prevent the spread of potential outbreaks.
- Shelter and Rehabilitation: Displaced residents need immediate shelter, clean water, food, and medical assistance. In the long term, rebuilding homes and restoring livelihoods will be paramount.
- Psychosocial Support: The psychological impact of the disaster on survivors is profound. Many have lost families and homes. Providing counseling and mental health support is crucial.
In the wake of Storm Daniel, Libya’s shortcomings in infrastructure have been brutally laid bare, stressing the urgent need for a global helping hand. As the nation is wrestling with this mind-boggling catastrophe, there are lingering doubts about the readiness and durability of its infrastructures. Yet despite the ongoing uncertainty, the boots-on-the-ground folks are zeroing in on search and rescue pursuits, trying to get some relief to those who made it out, and endeavoring to bring a slice of ‘business as usual’ back to those areas left reeling from such all-encompassing ruin.