Protesters Demand Accountability and Relief in Wake of Catastrophic Flooding in Libya

In a show of frustration and anger, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Sahaba Mosque in the city of Derna, Libya, demanding answers and justice after last week’s devastating flood. The demonstration escalated as the mayor’s house was burnt down, and the entire city council of Derna was subsequently dismissed. The flood, caused by the bursting of two old and dilapidated dams, has resulted in the official count of over 10,000 missing persons and approximately 4,000 confirmed deaths according to the United Nations (UN).

Residents of Derna blame local officials for not adequately warning them about the impending rainfall and for failing to initiate evacuation procedures. The protesters hail from a city continuously plagued by power struggles since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, which has led to the existence of two rival governments in Libya – one backed by the UN in Tripoli and another in the east supported by warlord Gen Khalifa Haftar. While Haftar has labeled the flooding as a natural disaster, experts argue that the eastern government neglected the maintenance of the dams despite prior warnings about their fragile condition.

The protest has garnered attention due to its size and potential institutional support. The Sahaba Mosque, typically designated as a rescue area, saw unprecedented access for the public during the demonstration, raising questions about the spontaneity of the event. Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group in Libya suggests that the protest might not have been a mere outburst of anger but could also indicate some level of organized support.

In response to the protests, the government in eastern Libya has ordered all journalists to leave Derna, blaming them for hindering the work of rescue teams. However, the protesters continue to demand more aid and assistance, as they have lost their most essential possessions in the flood. Their needs include not only basic supplies but also the establishment of processing facilities to replace lost passports and identity documents.

Despite the challenges faced by Libya, including ongoing power struggles and the devastation caused by the flood, international aid and support are pouring into the affected areas. Previously warring factions have put their differences aside and are now volunteering and providing resources such as food, water, medicine, and bedding. With the scale of destruction and loss in Derna, it is vital to ensure the efficient and equitable distribution of aid.

The catastrophic flooding in Libya serves as a reminder of the urgent need for infrastructure development and maintenance in the country. Additionally, it highlights the importance of proactive measures, including effective warning systems and evacuation protocols, to protect vulnerable communities from such disasters in the future. The aftermath of the flood demonstrates the resilience of the Libyan people, who, in the face of immense adversity, unite to support each other and strive for a better future.