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Deadly Flooding in Derna, Libya


 Thousands have been killed and even more reported missing following the floods in Derna, Libya which began on September 11th. With ongoing civil war and a corrupt government, the people of Derna were left at the hands of the flood, with little to no government support. 

    The rain that caused the floods began around midnight on September 11th, but residents of Derna felt confident that their city’s dams could withstand the heavy downpour. Derna residents were accustomed to occasional minor flooding in the city, and a few years before experienced a similar situation without disaster striking. During the beginning of the storm, the people of Derna live streamed and recorded video of the water levels rising, but eventually reentered their homes and returned to bed. Around 2:30am, residents awoke to screaming from the streets, warning about the approaching rush of water. The most damage that was done, however, was a few cars turned over in the streets and muddy roads. But at 3:00 am disaster struck. Both of the city’s dams had breached and a second wave higher than most of the city’s buildings approached. Residents fled to higher ground and to the top of buildings. One Derna resident recalls, “The entire place was all submerged in water. … You don’t see anything but water.” The people of Derna waited until 7:00 am for the water to subside, and discovered that many buildings had been washed away and destroyed by the flooding. One resident recalls how, ​​“The smell of death travels down all the roads.”

     As mentioned earlier, Derna is prone to flooding and its dams have caused around five deadly floods since 1942. The two dams that burst on September 11th were over 50 years old and had not undergone inspection or maintenance since 2002, but the problems with the dams were common knowledge among Libyan government officials. On September 25th sixteen Libyan government officials responsible for managing the dams were detained. Among those detained were Derna’s mayor and several present and former water infrastructure authorities. The 16 officials are currently under pre-trial detention after undergoing interrogation.

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