Libya's Storm Daniel could see unexploded WWII bombs emerge from Derna waters

Libya's Storm Daniel could see unexploded WWII bombs emerge from Derna waters
2 min read
15 September, 2023
This week's deadly floods in Libya may have brought to the surface millions of unexploded munitions which had sat in soil for years.
Derna is the epicentre of the Libyan disaster [Getty]

Aid workers warned on Wednesday that Libya's brutal and violent floods may unearth unexploded bombs and landmines from past conflicts in the wake of Storm Daniel and the collapse of two dams near the city of Derna.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that its teams were evaluating the risk posed to civilians and to relief and rescue teams from caches of unexploded ordnance and munitions from Libya's recent civil war as well as from the Second World War bombs and mines that never detonated.

"Our teams will also be evaluating the risk posed by unexploded ordnance and abandoned munition stores in Derna to prevent further death and injury," the group said in a statement.

Derna, at the heart of the Libyan catastrophe, witnessed the vast majority of fatalities and injuries due to the bursting of nearby dams on Monday, amplifying the scale of the disaster

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Last year, the UN estimated that unexploded ordnance in Libya was still spread across an area totalling more than 15 million square metres.

The UN also reported that 19 people, including 14 children, were killed in 2022 by explosive remnants of the war.

Human Rights Watch found that at least 130 people in Libya had been killed by unexploded ordnance between 2020 and 2022.

"Forces allied with Khalifa Hiftar laid landmines and improvised explosive devices that have killed and maimed several hundred civilians including children and hinder southern Tripoli residents from returning home," Hanan Salah, Libya director at Human Rights Watch said last year.

The ICRC's comments came as concerns were voiced surrounding the possibility of other dams collapsing in the country.

The mayor of the northeastern town of Tocra, Mahmoud Suleiman, warned that the pumping systems of the Wadi Jaza dam were not functioning and that the concrete barrier between the valley and the dam had started to crack. 

In comments carried by Afrigate News website, Suleiman said that this represented a great danger to the civilians of the area of Bersis, east of Benghazi, and neighbouring coastal towns.

Libya's east-based administration said on Wednesday that the situation was "under control" following reports that both the Wadi Jaza and Wadi Qattara dams were also at risk of bursting.

The administration said that the dams were "operating as normal".

The mayor of Derna has estimated as many as 20,000 people could have been killed in the floods. Thousands more are reported to be missing.