Libya flood disaster displaces more than 43,000 people: IOM - GulfToday

Libya flood disaster displaces more than 43,000 people: IOM


Abdulkarim Ben Ali reacts as he sits on the rubbles, in the aftermath of the floods in Derna, Libya. Reuters

Libya's flood disaster, which killed thousands in the city of Derna, also displaced more than 43,000 people, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday.

A tsunami-sized flash flood broke through two ageing river dams upstream from the coastal city after the Mediterranean Storm Daniel lashed the area on Sept.10.

It razed entire neighbourhoods, sweeping untold thousands of people into the sea. The official death toll stands at more than 3,300 - but the eventual count is expected to be far higher, with international aid groups giving estimates of up to 10,000 people missing.

"An estimated 43,059 individuals have been displaced by the floods in northeastern Libya," the IOM said, adding that a "lack of water supply is reportedly driving many displaced out of Derna" to other areas. "Urgent needs include food, drinking water and mental health and psychosocial support," it said.

Funeral-Libyaflood Volunteers stand beside flood victims as they prepare to hold a funeral prayer at a cemetery in Derna. Reuters

Mobile and internet services were meanwhile restored after a two-day disruption, following protests on Monday that saw angry residents blame the authorities for the high death toll.

Authorities had blamed the communications outage on "a rupture in the optical fibre" link to Derna, but some internet users and analysts charged there had been a deliberate "blackout."

Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah announced that communications had been restored in the east, in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday.

War-scarred Libya remains split between Dbeibah's UN-backed and nominally interim government in the west, and another in the disaster-hit east backed by Khalifa Haftar.

The dams that were overwhelmed by the torrential rain of Sept.10 had developed cracks as far back as the 1990s, Libya's top prosecutor has said, as residents accused authorities of negligence.

Much of Libya's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair in the chaos since a 2011 Nato-backed uprising topplled and killed Muammar Qadhafi.

Haftar's forces seized Derna in 2018, then a stronghold of radical rebels, and with the reputation as a protest stronghold since Qadhafi's days.

The demonstrators had gathered on Monday outside Derna's grand mosque and chanted slogans against the parliament in eastern Libya and its leader Aguilah Saleh.

Libya-flood-survior Dr Fadwa Al Fartass (R) attends to Ibrar Goma, a 15-year-old survivor of the recent flooding in Derna. AFP

In a televised interview on Wednesday evening, Libya's prosecutor general Al Seddik Al Sour vowed "rapid results" in the investigation into the cause of the tragedy. He added that those suspected of corruption or negligence "have already been identified," without naming them.


Survivors in have Derna meanwhile faced new threats. The United Nations warned this week that disease outbreaks could bring "a second devastating crisis" to the flood-hit areas.

Local officials, aid agencies and the World Health Organisation "are concerned about the risk of disease outbreak, particularly from contaminated water and the lack of sanitation," the UN said.

Libya's disease control centre has warned that mains water in the disaster zone is polluted and urged residents not to use it.

Migrants’ Plight: The small first-floor apartment in Derna became home away from home to Syrian migrant Ammar Kanaan, after the risk of drowning kept him from attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe that has cost the lives of so many.

After fleeing Syria two years ago to avoid military service, Kanaan had found a steady job in a pastry shop in the Libyan city and lived with two Sudanese roommates a few metres away from Derna's riverbed.

But this month, the 19-year-old drowned with thousands of others when a flash flood washed away swathes of the city.

Now, the plot where his building once stood is a patch of reddish-brown dirt, and families that relied on breadwinners on distant shores are left shell-shocked, with no bodies to bury.

"He didn't take to the sea. The sea came to him," said Kanaan's uncle, Osama, only 24 himself and who moved from Syria to the Libyan city of Benghazi this year. "He died, crushed and drowned."

Kanaan left Syria at age 17, determined to avoid obligatory military service in a country riven by 12 years of war. As Syria's economy continued its downward slump, he hoped a job abroad could help him send money to his parents back home in the southern Daraa province.

Reaching Europe was a near-impossible feat and Turkey was too expensive and difficult to navigate, so he settled on Libya.


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