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Libya: Haftar forces 'denied Derna's evacuation request'

Libyan: Haftar forces 'denied Derna's evacuation request' ahead of Storm Daniel
2 min read
12 September, 2023
Controversy has arisen following allegations that warlord Khalifa Haftar's forces denied a request from the Derna local government to evacuate the city ahead of the storm.
Death toll in Derna city tops 2,000 after floods hit eastern Libya [Anadolu Agency]

An estimated 3,000 people have been killed and thousands remain missing after Storm Daniel devastated eastern Libya. The city of Derna suffered the most, with substantial destruction caused by the collapse of two dams.

Some Libya analysts said that that the local government sought permission from warlord Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army to evacuate Derna ahead of the storm, but this was denied.

According to Libya specialist Jalel Harchaoui "the army told people instead to stay at home". The New Arab contacted Harchaoui for further comment but has received no response as of yet.

After the 2011 overthrow of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Derna became a stronghold of Islamist militias who later fought against Khalifa Haftar, but Haftar's forces claimed to have taken full control of the city in 2018.

The political division between eastern and western Libya, which are ruled by two rival governments, took a toll on providing services and disaster relief, the president of the National Council on US-Libya Relations, Hani Shennib, told Aljazeera.

He added that eastern Libya had a long history of resentment over years of perceived neglect and that assistance offered by individuals from the west has not been warmly welcomed.

“Despite its population of 100,000, Derna lacks a fully functioning hospital. Currently, a five-bedroom rented villa is the only medical facility serving the city,” Shennib said. This neglect dates back to the 42-year rule of Gaddafi. 

The horrific storm, which may have killed up to 10,000 people, is the most severe natural disaster Libya has faced in over four decades.