Libya's flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities

Libya's flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities
3 min read
23 September, 2023
The Libyan port city of Derna suffered catastrophic destruction following a tsunami-sized flash flood earlier this month.
Overturned cars lay among other debris caused by flash floods in Derna, eastern Libya. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Libya's eastern-based administration said on Friday that it would host an international conference next month in the flood-hit port city of Derna to aid reconstruction efforts.

A tsunami-sized flash flood broke through two ageing dams upstream from Derna after a hurricane-strength storm lashed the area on September 10, razing entire neighbourhoods and sweeping thousands of people into the sea.

"The government invites the international community to participate in the conference planned for October 10 in Derna to present modern, rapid projects for the reconstruction of the city," the administration said in a statement.

It said the conference was being held in "response to the demands of residents of the stricken city of Derna and other towns that suffered damage" during the flooding.

Wracked by division since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafiin 2011, Libya has for years been ruled by two administrations vying for power.

A UN-backed, internationally recognised administration in Tripoli is run by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, while a rival administration in the east is backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar's forces seized Derna in 2018, then a stronghold of radical Islamists, and with the reputation as a protest stronghold since Kadhafi's days.

The latest official death toll released on Friday evening stood at 3,753 but the eventual count is expected to be far higher, with international aid groups giving estimates of up to 10,000 people missing.

Bodies are still being found in large numbers, under the debris or on beaches where they have washed up after being swept out to the sea by the flood.

On Friday, dozens of bodies were delivered in a lorry and two pick-ups to the village cemetery in Martouba, 27 kilometres (17 miles) southeast of Derna, for burial, footage posted on social media showed.

Libyan media said 200 people were buried in the cemetery in a single day.

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Over 40,000 displaced 

The International Organization for Migration said Thursday that more than 43,000 people have been displaced from the disaster zone.

It said a "lack of water supply is reportedly driving many displaced out of Derna".

In Susa, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) to the west, residents complained that they too had no access to drinking water after the flood badly damaged a desalination plant.

Instead, volunteers have to "bring water from nearby cities in big trucks," 34-year-old Ahmed Saleh told AFP.

Mobile and internet services were restored in Derna on Thursday following a two-day disruption that came after demonstrations by angry residents on Monday.

The protests saw hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the city's grand mosque, chanting slogans against the eastern-based parliament and its leader and calling for accountability over the high death toll.

Amnesty International reported "arrests of critics and protesters" in Derna and criticised "efforts to choreograph and control media access".

The dams that burst had developed cracks as far back as the 1990s, Libya's top prosecutor has said, as residents accused authorities of negligence.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution group said in a report issued on Tuesday that a deluge of the magnitude seen in eastern Libya during Storm Daniel was an event that occurred once every 300-600 years.

They said such downpours were both more likely and heavier because of human-caused global warming, resulting in up to 50 per cent more rain.