Libyan officials have refused to accept responsibility for the tragic flood disaster that has struck the nation. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Othman Abdul Jalil, a spokesperson for the Benghazi-based government, callously denied allegations that many flood victims were instructed to remain in their homes.
The heartbreaking reality in the city of Derna tells a different story. BBC teams on the ground report that aid agencies are nowhere to be seen, leaving survivors to fend for themselves amidst the devastation. While the city buzzes with local efforts to rescue, provide medical care, and identify the deceased, the absence of major international aid organizations is glaring.
Tomasso Della Longa from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies aptly describes the situation as a “nightmare,” highlighting the complexity of coordinating aid in a country already mired in chaos.
Adding to the chaos, the floods have mercilessly obliterated essential infrastructure, including roads and communication systems. The death toll, which ranges from 6,000 to a staggering 11,000, with many still missing, has prompted Derna’s mayor to grimly warn of the possibility of it reaching 20,000. Some victims’ bodies have been found more than 100 kilometers away, tragically carried out to sea by the relentless floodwaters.
The United Nations’ humanitarian office spokesperson, Jens Laerke, grimly acknowledges the grim situation, with survivors and bodies still buried under the wreckage. It will take considerable time to ascertain the true extent of the casualties. Preventing a secondary disaster, including a health crisis, providing shelter, clean water, and food, has become paramount.
The desperation is palpable, with over 1,000 people hastily buried in mass graves, a practice criticized by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the lasting mental anguish it inflicts on grieving families.
This catastrophe, triggered by the bursting of two dams following Storm Daniel, has unleashed terror, as neighborhoods were swept away into the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, Libya’s fractured political landscape, with rival governments in Tripoli and Benghazi, further hampers the recovery efforts.
Amidst this horror, questions loom about the evacuation orders or lack thereof. Allegations of poor dam maintenance and conflicting reports on evacuation directives have fueled the growing demand for an urgent inquiry into the flood’s catastrophic consequences.
Residents who received mixed messages from the rival governments now grapple with the haunting “what if” scenarios. While some officials claim they urged residents to seek higher ground as the weather worsened, many underestimated the threat.
In an alarming twist, there are even allegations that officials took to Libyan television to command people to stay home due to bad weather, a claim firmly denied by Othman Abdul Jalil. While it is too early to definitively link this storm’s severity to global warming, scientists increasingly connect climate change to the intensification of such devastating weather events.