In a harrowing turn of events, the Mayor of Derna, Libya, along with seven other officials, have been arrested in the wake of catastrophic floods that tragically claimed the lives of over 11,000 people. These arrests were made on suspicions of negligence and mismanagement, following the disastrous collapse of dams during a severe storm.
The city of Derna, located approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Benghazi on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, bore the brunt of this devastating natural disaster. The floods were unleashed by a formidable weather system known as Storm Daniel, which metamorphosed into a “medicane” – a rare type of storm bearing resemblances to hurricanes and typhoons. The storm unleashed a deluge of more than 16 inches (414 mm) of rainfall within a mere 24 hours upon Al-Bayda, a city situated west of Derna, setting a new record for the region.
Tragically, the calamity was further exacerbated by the catastrophic failure of two dams. This unleashed a torrential wave of water that cascaded through the surrounding mountains, overwhelming Derna and its unsuspecting residents. The relentless force of nature left in its wake a devastating toll, with over 11,000 lives lost and an additional 10,000 people reported as missing.
The devastation is heart-wrenching, with entire neighborhoods believed to have been swept away, leaving lifeless bodies strewn along the sidewalks. The horror of the event is magnified by Libya’s already tumultuous political landscape. Since the eruption of civil war in 2014, the country has been grappling with political turmoil, resulting in the emergence of two rival governments: the eastern parliament-backed government situated in Benghazi and the internationally recognized government based in Tripoli.
Amid this chaos, both factions have reported conflicting figures regarding the number of victims affected by this catastrophic flooding. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by World Weather Attribution, an international consortium of scientists specializing in the analysis of climate change’s influence on extreme weather events, revealed a troubling connection. According to their findings, the flooding in Libya was made up to 50 times more likely due to planet-warming pollution.
As Libya grapples with the aftermath of this heart-wrenching catastrophe, questions surrounding accountability, disaster preparedness, and climate change mitigation loom large. The world watches, hoping that lessons can be learned from this tragedy to prevent future devastation.