Decade-long Civil War Leaves Libya Devastated, Floods Unleash Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis

15:06 13.09.2023

In the aftermath of the devastating floods caused by Mediterranean Storm Daniel, satellite images have revealed the extensive damage to the port city of Derna in eastern Libya. Surrounded by powerful floodwaters from multiple burst dams along the Wadi Derna river, the city of Derna, with a population of around 100,000, experienced catastrophic impacts. Before and after satellite images demonstrate the stark contrast in the affected areas, with entire clusters of buildings being swept away by the flooding.

The International Rescue Committee's senior vice president for crisis response, Ciaran Donelly, described the challenges faced in Derna, with phone lines down and heavy destruction hindering rescue efforts. The committee labeled the disaster as an "unprecedented humanitarian crisis." The interior ministry reported a death toll exceeding 5,300 people in Derna alone, while Hichem Chkiouat, the minister of civil aviation, estimated that 25% of the city had disappeared. The International Organization for Migration stated that at least 30,000 people were displaced from their homes in Derna due to flood damage.

The devastation was not only limited to Derna, as the Red Cross reported 6,000 displaced individuals in Benghazi, another heavily affected city. Tamer Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, stated that around 10,000 people were reported missing across the region. More than 2,000 bodies had been found and collected, with over half of them buried in mass graves in Derna.

The ongoing civil war and division between the eastern and western governments in Libya pose significant barriers to aid reaching those impacted by the disaster. With two governments controlling separate regions, coordinating the distribution of aid presents a challenge. The country's crumbling infrastructure, exacerbated by the years of violence and chaos, has left it vulnerable to natural disasters. The storm's impact on Derna was severe, with entire neighborhoods being swept into the sea.

The floods also destroyed electricity and communication infrastructure, as well as key roads leading to Derna. Only two out of seven roads remained intact, making access to the city difficult. Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organization, described the flooding as of "epic proportions" and estimated that it had affected up to 1.8 million people, leading to the destruction of hospitals.

Overall, the combination of the natural disaster and the political vacuum in Libya has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with obstacles to rescue and relief efforts. The fragmented governance and heavily armed militias further complicate the distribution of aid and the accurate assessment of casualties. The situation in Libya highlights the urgency for international assistance to reach those in need and help rebuild the shattered communities.

/ Wednesday, September 13, 2023, 3:06 PM /

themes:  War

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