DERNA (LIBYA), Sept 16: Libyan authorities have opened an investigation into the collapse of two
dams that caused a devastating flood in a coastal city as rescue teams searched for bodies on
Saturday, nearly a week after the deluge killed more than 11,000 people.
Heavy rains caused by Mediterranean storm Daniel caused deadly flooding across eastern Libya last
The floods overwhelmed two dams, sending a wall of water several metres (yards) high through the
centre of Derna, destroying entire neighbourhoods and sweeping people out to sea.
More than 10,000 are missing, according to the Libyan Red Crescent. Six days on, searchers are still
digging through mud and hollowed-out buildings, looking for bodies and possible survivors. The Red
Crescent has confirmed 11,300 deaths so far.
Claire Nicolet, who heads the emergencies department of the Doctors Without Borders aid group,
said rescuers found “a lot of bodies” on Friday and were still searching.
“It was a big number … the sea is still ejecting lots of dead bodies unfortunately,” she told The
She said massive aid efforts were still needed, including urgent psychological support for those who
lost their families. She said the burial of bodies is still a significant challenge, despite some progress
in coordinating search and rescue efforts and the distribution of aid.
Authorities and aid groups have voiced concern about the spread of waterborne diseases and
shifting of explosive ordnance from Libya’s recent conflicts.
Haider al-Saeih, head of Libya’s centre for combating diseases, said in televised comments Saturday
that at least 150 people had suffered from diarrhea after drinking contaminated water in Derna.
He urged residents to only drink bottled water, which is being shipped in as part of relief efforts.
Libya’s General Prosecutor, al-Sediq al-Sour, said prosecutors would investigate the collapse of the
two dams, which were built in the 1970s, as well as the allocation of maintenance funds.
He said prosecutors would investigate local authorities in the city, as well as previous governments.
“I reassure citizens that whoever made mistakes or negligence, prosecutors will certainly take firm
measures, file a criminal case against him and send him to trial,” he told a news conference in Derna
It’s unclear how such an investigation can be carried out in the North African country, which plunged
into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
For most of the past decade, Libya has been split between rival administrations — one in the east,
the other in the west — each backed by powerful militias and international patrons.
One result has been the neglect of crucial infrastructure, even as climate change makes extreme
weather events more frequent and severe.
Local officials in the city had warned the public about the coming storm and last Saturday ordered
residents to evacuate coastal areas in Derna, fearing a surge from the sea. But there was no warning
about the dams, which collapsed early Monday as most residents were asleep in their homes.
A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the two dams had not been maintained despite the
allocation of more than USD 2 million for that purpose in 2012 and 2013.
A Turkish firm was contracted in 2007 to carry out maintenance on the two dams and build another
dam in between.
The firm, Arsel Construction Company Limited, said on its website that it completed its work in
November 2012. It did not respond to an email seeking further comment.
Local and international rescue teams were meanwhile working around the clock, searching for
bodies and potential survivors in the city of 90,000 people.
Ayoub said his father and nephew died in Derna on Monday, a day after the family had fled flooding
in the nearby town of Bayda.
He said his mother and sister raced upstairs to the roof but the others didn’t make it. “I found the kid
in the water next to his grandfather,” said Ayoub, who only gave his first name. ”I am wandering
around and I still don’t believe what happened.”
Al-Sour, the top prosecutor, called on residents who have missing relatives to report to a forensic
committee that works on documenting and identifying retrieved bodies.
“We ask citizens to cooperate and quickly proceed to the committee’s headquarters so that we can
finish the work as quickly as possible,” he said.
Libyan authorities have restricted access to the flooded city to make it easier for searchers to dig
through the mud and hollowed-out buildings for the more than 10,000 people still missing.
Many bodies were believed to have been buried under rubble or swept out into the Mediterranean
Sea, they said.
The storm hit other areas in eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Marj and Shahatt.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the region and took shelter in schools and other
Dozens of foreigners were among those killed, including people who had fled war and unrest
elsewhere in the region.
Others had come to Libya to work or were travelling through in hopes of migrating to Europe. At
least 74 men from one village in Egypt perished in the flood, as well as dozens of people who had
travelled to Libya from war-torn Syria. (AP)