A view of the area as many settlements, vehicles and workplaces have been damaged after floods caused by heavy rains hit the region in Misrata, Libya on September 10, 2023.

A view of the area as many settlements, vehicles and workplaces have been damaged after floods caused by heavy rains hit the region in Misrata, Libya on September 10, 2023.

Photo by Emhmmed Mohamed Kshiem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Hundreds Rally in Eastern Libyan City of Derna, Demanding Accountability After Deadly Flood

Emergency responders uncover hundreds of bodies amidst wreckage. Mediterranean storm leaves 10,000 missing and wipes out a quarter of Derna, Libya, in a grim disaster.

In a display of discontent, hundreds of residents in the eastern Libyan city of Derna gathered on Wednesday to protest against local authorities, demanding accountability one week after a catastrophic flood took the lives of thousands and decimated entire neighborhoods.

Protesters directed their anger towards officials, including Aguila Saleh, the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, during a demonstration held outside the Sahaba Mosque, a cherished landmark in Derna. Some demonstrators even climbed onto the roof, symbolizing their frustration. The mayor's residence in Derna was incinerated by the enraged protesters, who sought answers regarding the devastating flood that struck the city a week earlier.

Following the bursting of two old and dilapidated dams, more than 11,000 people are officially listed as missing, while the United Nations now confirms nearly 4,000 fatalities. Residents argue that they were not adequately warned by authorities, alleging that officials were aware of the impending heavy rainfall. The decision to issue a stay-at-home advisory rather than an evacuation order is also a point of contention, though officials deny the allegation.

Since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has grappled with internal power struggles, resulting in the coexistence of two governments - one recognized by the United Nations in Tripoli and another in the east, supported by the warlord Gen Khalifa Haftar. Haftar has characterized the flooding as a natural disaster, but many Libyans assert that the eastern government neglected the dams, despite previous warnings about their fragile condition.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution group explained on Tuesday that Libya's ongoing conflict and inadequate dam maintenance had transformed extreme weather events into a humanitarian catastrophe. They also noted that global warming, driven by human activity, contributed to a 50% increase in rainfall in eastern Libya.

A statement read on behalf of the protesters called for a swift investigation and legal action against those responsible for the disaster. Additionally, they demanded the establishment of a United Nations office in Derna, the initiation of the city's reconstruction, compensation for affected residents, and an inquiry into the city council and previous budgets.

Concerns about disease outbreaks have emerged, prompting the UN to caution against "a second devastating crisis." Local authorities, aid organizations, and the World Health Organization express apprehension about the risk of disease outbreaks, especially due to contaminated water sources and sanitation issues.

Rescue teams from European and Arab nations continue their grim search for bodies amidst the mud-covered wasteland of demolished buildings, crushed vehicles, and uprooted trees. The flood submerged a densely populated area spanning six square kilometers (2.3 square miles) in Derna, causing extensive damage to 1,500 buildings, of which 891 were entirely destroyed, according to a preliminary report released by the Tripoli government based on satellite imagery.

In the midst of this tragedy, the true death toll remains uncertain, with countless individuals swept away by the floodwaters

Egypt has dispatched a helicopter carrier to the Tobruk military base in the east, which will function as a field hospital with over 100 beds. France has established a field hospital in Derna. The U.N., which has initiated an emergency appeal for over $71 million, reports that nine of its agencies are delivering aid and support to survivors. The European Union has allocated 5.2 million euros (approximately $5.5 million) in humanitarian funding for Libya, bringing its total aid contribution to over 5.7 million euros.