About 10,000 people and more than 5000 are reported dead as Storm Daniel burst through dams in the city of Derna, flooding and dragging away entire neighborhoods.
Two dams and four bridges collapsed over the Wadi Derna, a river flowing from the mountains through the city and into the sea, submerging much of the city, when the storm hit on Sunday.
The flooding came days after an earthquake in Morocco, killed more than 2,900 people.
The country’s woes, political division, economic instability, corruption, environmental degradation and dilapidated infrastructure were all exposed when the dams collapsed.
Libya, a North African nation splintered by a war, has been in political chaos ever since long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, on the back of the Arab Spring uprisings, leaving the oil-rich nation split with an interim, internationally-recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah operating from the capital, Tripoli, and another one in Benghazi, where the rival prime minister, Ossama Hamad, heads the eastern administration, which is backed by powerful military commander Khalifa Hiftar.
Thousands went missing as the country was ill-prepared for the flooding as the storm battered the coastline, leaving bodies scattered in the streets.
Buildings collapsed, vehicles sank and roads were blocked impeding access to the most stricken areas.
Videos of the aftermath show water gushing through the port city’s tower blocks and bodies lined up on sidewalks covered with blankets, collected for burial.
Residents say the only indication of danger was the loud sound of the dams cracking, with no warning system or evacuation plan.
‘There are no rescue teams, there are no trained rescuers in Libya. Everything over the last 12 years was about war’ said a local news source.
Despite the political unrest, the government in Tripoli has sent a plane with more than 80 doctors and paramedics along with 14 tonnes of medical supplies to aid in the relief efforts.
The UN’s World Food Programme, said it had food supplies for 5,000 families, even as the country’s leading news organization Al-Wasat highlighted failures to rebuild and maintain infrastructure in Derna after years of conflict as partly to blame for the high death toll, which is only set to rise.
‘The security chaos and Libyan authorities’ laxity in carrying out close monitoring of safety measures [of the dams] led to the catastrophe,’ Al-Wasat quoted economic expert Mohammed Ahmed as saying.
Much of Derna was constructed when Libya was under Italian occupation in the first half of the 20th century.
Most of its Derna’s modern infrastructure was constructed during the Gaddafi era, including the Wadi Derna dam, which was built by a Yugoslav company in the mid 1970s.
Blockades and security threats have hampered the benefits of Libya’s main export, crude oil and they have not trickled down to the country’s population, including rebuilding or investment in infrastructure, which is considerable strained in the event of calamities such as this.
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