Geography in the News > Libya Floods
At least 11,300 people have died from flooding in the coastal city of Derna (Darnah). According to the Libyan Red Crescent, this devastating event was triggered by the collapse of two dams during heavy rains. Additionally, around 10,100 people are currently reported as missing in Derna.
This catastrophe occurred on Sunday, 10th September, when a powerful Mediterranean storm named Daniel wreaked havoc in various parts of eastern Libya. However, Derna suffered the worst consequences. During the storm, residents of Derna heard loud explosions as the two dams outside the city gave way to the rising floodwaters. These waters rushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, destroying buildings and carrying people out to sea.
Despite some early warnings, the dams collapsing took everyone by surprise. This disaster has demonstrated the storm’s intensity and exposed Libya’s vulnerability. The country has faced ongoing conflicts and has been divided between rival governments for most of the past decade, resulting in neglected critical infrastructure like the dams. Surprisingly, these dams, which dated back to the 1970s, had not received proper maintenance despite substantial funding allocated for that purpose in 2012 and 2013, according to a report from a state-run audit agency in 2021.
Rescue efforts have been severely hampered due to the destruction of roads leading to the affected area, making it challenging to bring in heavy equipment. Local officials have suggested that the death toll might be higher than reported.
The flood has displaced at least 30,000 people in Derna, as confirmed by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration. Thousands more in other eastern towns have been compelled to leave their homes due to the disaster. The floods have damaged or destroyed many access roads to Derna, making it difficult for international rescue teams and humanitarian aid to reach the area.
To address the urgent needs of those most affected, the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) has issued an emergency appeal for £57.5 million ($71.4 million). OCHA estimates rain and flooding directly affect approximately 884,000 people in five provinces.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has provided vital support by delivering 6,000 body bags to local authorities and distributing medical supplies, food, and other necessities to the severely affected communities.
Several countries, including Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Italy, have dispatched aid and rescue teams to assist with the situation. Italy, for example, has sent a naval vessel carrying humanitarian aid and two navy helicopters for search and rescue operations.
President Joe Biden has also pledged to send financial assistance to relief organizations and collaborate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to provide additional support during this devastating time.