Libya’s Chief Prosecutor Initiates Inquiry into Deadly Dam Collapse

17 September, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastava

Libya World

The Sunday night's catastrophic flooding, which washed away entire families, highlighted the ongoing vulnerabilities in the oil-rich nation that is facing turmoil since 2011.

Following a devastating flood that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in Libya, the country’s chief prosecutor is launching an inquiry into the failure of two dams in the eastern port city of Derna, which unleashed a rapid and destructive flood, as reported by Al Jazeera. General Prosecutor al-Sediq al-Sour has stated that the investigation will also extend to examine the actions of local authorities, past administrations, and the allocation of funds for dam maintenance.

During a news conference on Friday, al-Sour reassured the public, stating, “I want to assure citizens that those responsible for errors or negligence will face serious consequences, including the initiation of criminal proceedings and their subsequent trial,” according to Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, rescue teams continue their efforts to locate victims in the devastated city.

According to Al Jazeera, the death toll in Derna has risen to 11,300 as search and recovery operations persist, with The Libyan Red Crescent as the source of this information. Additionally, Marie el-Drese, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Libya, reports that another 10,100 individuals are missing in the Mediterranean city. However, different estimates are provided by officials in the eastern and western regions of the divided country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Saturday, indicating that “3,958 individuals have been recovered and identified,” but 9,000 others are still unaccounted for. WHO has also disclosed the allocation of 29 tonnes of medical supplies to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, as reported by Al Jazeera. Ahmed Zouiten, the WHO’s representative in Libya, expressed deep sorrow over the immense loss of life, referring to it as a “disaster of monumental proportions.”

Derna’s mayor, Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, has suggested that the final death toll could potentially reach 20,000 due to the extensive impact on numerous neighborhoods. The catastrophic flooding on Sunday night swept away entire families, revealing vulnerabilities in this oil-rich nation that has faced ongoing turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ousted long-serving dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The IFRC remains optimistic about finding survivors, despite the challenging conditions faced by emergency workers as they sift through mud and debris. Access to Derna remains severely restricted due to the destruction of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, as well as disruptions to phone and electricity services, leaving at least 30,000 people homeless.

In response to the crisis, the United Nations has called for the establishment of a sea corridor for emergency relief and evacuations, citing the collapse of most overland routes. Petteri Taalas, Chief of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, highlighted the potential for preventing some of the fatalities if early warnings had been issued and if emergency management systems had functioned effectively in this war-torn nation, according to Al Jazeera.

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