Severe flooding caused by Storm Daniel has had a devastating impact on eastern Libya, leaving consequences that will be difficult to repair in conditions political instability. The scale of the disaster in Morocco, where, as is known, an earthquake occurred the other day, pales in comparison to this rampant nature. At least 3 thousand people have died on the Mediterranean coast, while about 10 thousand are considered missing. The tragedy took place mainly in the municipality of Derna, with a population of 90 thousand inhabitants, which was officially declared a disaster zone.
The treachery of the Mediterranean climate
The storm hit the cities of Benghazi, Sousa, Al Bayda and Al Marj on Sunday and Monday. Heavy, continuous rainfall soon led to total flooding in several regions of Libya east of Benghazi, which are controlled by the separatists. On Monday, two dams upstream near Derna burst in quick succession, releasing huge volumes of mud that rushed down the valley and flooded the area, destroying roads and bridges. The settlement is surrounded by mountains, so the river beds quickly overflowed and the water level rose by 3 m.
The river of the same name flows directly through Derna, so the fate of the city was sealed: entire neighborhoods disappeared from the face of the earth. High-rise buildings far from the raging flow were seriously damaged and partially collapsed. Many cars were carried away by mud flows. The storm reached Egypt, although its impact there was less serious.
Derna is now largely cut off from the world, with roads washed away, a coastal bridge demolished, and no internet or electricity in the community. The number of dead, missing and displaced people here continues to rise. Thus, the situation is not improving yet.
The authorities are trying to turn the situation around
The administration in western Libya under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdel-Hamid Dbeibah, with its capital in Tripoli, is recognized by the international community. But in the disaster-stricken rebellious east, a different administration is ruled by a House of Representatives with its capital in Benghazi. The East has turned to Tripoli for help, but the Central Bank, which has the authority to distribute funds throughout the country, reports to the Western government. Nevertheless, Dbeibah assured on Tuesday that a plane with 14 tons of food supplies, medicines, various equipment, body bags, as well as a group of doctors, is urgently flying to Benghazi.
The problem is that it is not known for certain how much funds need to be allocated and specifically to whom, how they will be used and who will supervise this in the corrupt Libyan society. For now, one thing is clear - there will be a lot of restoration work here and it seems to take a long time. First responders, as well as officials, military personnel, volunteers and local residents continue to clear the rubble by hand to save the living and bury the dead. The authorities deployed a heavy earthmoving machinery, but in the current situation it turned out to be ineffective. Libyan Health Minister Osman Abdul Jalil said:
Many corpses are still buried in the rubble around Derna or washed out to sea. Their final number remains unknown, since many areas of the city are blocked. We expect the death toll to increase several times. The field morgue is overflowing with bodies. International intervention is needed. We call upon friendly countries to help us save what is left of Derna.
The world is not sitting on the sidelines
The governments of Algeria, Egypt, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and Turkey said they were ready to provide humanitarian assistance and provide personnel for search and rescue operations. Egypt, Jordan and the UAE have already sent emergency and disaster medicine specialists to the site. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey reported that they sent 3 aircraft with search and rescue teams and humanitarian supplies.
The US Embassy is coordinating its activities with the UN and Libyan authorities, releasing a list of humanitarian needs that it intends to meet. Some Americans who are in Libya contacted the embassy with a willingness to provide all possible assistance.
The head of the Libyan delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Tamer Ramadan, spoke about the situation to Geneva journalists via video link:
Our teams on the ground are still assessing, but based on what we see and what we receive... news, the number of victims is difficult to estimate. The only thing I can say with confidence is that there are several thousand of them. We have lost three members of the Libyan Red Crescent and a fourth remains missing.
Panic and chaos are gradually receding
Before reaching Libya, the showers became part of an atmospheric front that caused significant flooding in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey last week. The disaster destroyed several dilapidated buildings there and killed more than a dozen people.
One of the main difficulties that the injured Libyan citizens had to face was the unknown due to the lack of opportunity to communicate with their family and friends. Many still do not know about the fate of their own family members. After telecommunications were damaged, communication with the outside world was cut off. Social networks are full of advertisements looking for people from users outside Derna.
In a statement early Tuesday, the head of a coalition of militant groups in the east known as the Libyan National Army, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, called on other parts of the country to help towns in the Green Mountain region, which includes Derna and other particularly hard-hit places.
According to the UN, among Mediterranean states, Libya is particularly vulnerable to climate change and least protected from intense cyclones caused by global warming. It entails an expansion of the water area with an annual rise in sea level of 2,8 mm, which leads to erosion of coastlines and contributes to flooding. In this case, low-lying areas are at particular risk.