Derna Devastated as Old Dams Crumble under Pressure of Flooding

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The city of Derna, the victim of intense flooding, as seen on a map (Image credit: CNN)

Libya recently faced one of its most severe natural disasters when intense flooding resulted in the collapse of multiple dams. The floods wreaked havoc across the country, leading to vast destruction and a tragic loss of life. Many Libyans watched in horror as water engulfed their homes, leaving countless households without shelter or basic utilities.

This devastating event prompted an immediate response from the international community, with numerous countries and organizations mobilizing to offer support and launching an emergency relief operation to aid affected Libyans.

This significant natural disaster only further burdens a nation already struggling with significant humanitarian challenges, with an estimated 300,000 individuals already in need of assistance. This only exacerbated the nation’s struggles, adding further complexity to the ongoing efforts to provide aid.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provided data suggesting that close to 880,000 people lived in areas directly affected by the flooding. Such a number is indicative of the sheer scale of the disaster and the immense efforts required to restore the country.

Prior to the adverse weather conditions, Libya’s National Meteorological Center had proactively issued warnings regarding the expected heavy rainfall and the risk of floods. These alerts, however, did not adequately cover the potential threat posed by the country’s older, more vulnerable dams. Rainfall exceeding 414.1 mm within a single day in some regions triggered the dam breaches, unleashing subsequent flash floods that swept through towns and cities.

Recapping the Storm’s Effects:

The storm, dubbed Storm Daniel by Libya’s National Meteorological Centre, intensified in the northeastern part of the country around 10 September. Wind speeds of up to 70-80 km/h were largely responsible for significant communication breakdowns, the destruction of power infrastructure, and the uprooting of trees. The area was deluged by rain between 150-240 mm, with Al-Bayda registering an extraordinary rainfall of 414.1 mm within 24 hours, marking a new record for the region.

In preparation for the extreme weather, the National Meteorological Centre had broadcast early warnings about 72 hours before the event. Government agencies and departments were similarly informed and advised to exercise increased caution and implement preventive measures. As the situation became more dire, eastern parts of Libya saw the declaration of a state of emergency.

However, the proactive measures did not do enough to prevent the tragedy. The relentless rain proved too much for two of the country’s aging dams, which crumbled under the pressure. Flash floods resulting from these breaches wreaked devastation in Derna, obliterating neighborhoods and leading to a significant loss of life, especially among those caught off-guard during the night.

As the world shifts its focus from immediate relief to rehabilitation, the reconstruction of infrastructure and housing takes center stage. Temporary shelters must be established to house those displaced, while a more sustained rebuilding effort should aim at restoring and enhancing the existing infrastructure with natural disaster-resistant features. Economic revitalization is another crucial aspect of rebuilding efforts. Financial grants, employment opportunities linked to rebuilding projects, and support to the agricultural sector will play a significant role in Libya’s recovery. Restoring eroded lands, purifying water sources, and ensuring a steady supply of clean drinking water also represent environmental priorities that cannot be ignored.

Written by Vincent Kikano

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