Libyan Prime Minister and UN Envoy Discuss International Response to Devastating Floods in Eastern Libya
Libya’s Prime Minister Engages UN in Flood Crisis
Libya’s Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, recently convened a meeting with the UN Envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, to discuss international efforts aimed at handling the severe flood situation that has affected the eastern part of Libya. Also present in the meeting were the Minister of Local Government, Badr al-Din al-Toumi, along with the head of the government team for the Emergency and Rapid Response Committee. The primary focus of the discussion was the situation in cities heavily impacted by the storm, including Derna, which experienced severe floods on September 10, leading to thousands of deaths.
The Flood Situation in Derna
Derna, a city bisected by a seasonal river that flows from highlands to the south, was heavily impacted when the floods washed away a quarter of the city. The floods resulted from an infrastructure failure that saw the collapse of two dams. Communications in Derna remain disrupted, affecting rescue and relief efforts. The damage extended to homes, roads, bridges, and hospitals, with limited access to some areas due to road damage. The dam reservoirs in Derna have caused at least five floods since 1942, with the most recent one in 2011. Notably, the dams have not been maintained since 2002.
The Libyan Government’s Response
The Libyan government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has made significant efforts to manage the crisis. These efforts have included evacuating people, burying the dead, extracting those covered in rubble, and addressing health situations. The government has also sought international assistance and collaboration to help manage the crisis. This includes engaging international bodies like the UN and local agencies like the Emergency and Rapid Response Committee. Through such meetings, the government hopes to coordinate efforts and resources to address the crisis and provide necessary relief to the affected areas and communities.
The International Community’s Response
Several countries have responded to Libya’s call for help, sending rescue teams and providing medical and logistical support. The international community has been urged to live up to its responsibility to Libya and help it cope with the aftermath of the disaster, especially to avoid health disasters warned of by experts. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed that search and rescue teams, emergency workers, and UN staff inside Derna were still operating. However, a team due to head there from Benghazi had been halted.
The Aftermath of the Floods
The floods resulted in a devastating toll, with at least 11,300 believed to have died after torrents of water ripped through eastern Libya. A precise tally of the rising number of people killed is incredibly difficult to compile given the level of destruction and the chaotic political situation in the region. As rescuers searched underwater and under rubble, fears grew that rotting bodies could lead to a deadly outbreak of disease. In addition to the human toll, the floods have caused significant infrastructural damage, including damage to homes, roads, bridges, and hospitals.
Looking Ahead: Call for Infrastructure Maintenance
The disaster has highlighted the urgent need for infrastructure maintenance in Libya. Officials acknowledge that a contract to repair the dams after 2007 was never completed, blaming insecurity in the area. Going forward, it will be crucial for the government and international community to ensure that such maintenance is carried out to prevent future catastrophic flooding. The dams will need to be rebuilt and maintained, a task that will require significant resources and international collaboration.
Unity in the Face of Disaster
The disaster has also had a unifying effect on Libyans, who have set aside political divisions to help each other in the wake of the floods. This unity and solidarity represent a silver lining in the midst of the tragedy and symbolize the birth of a new era, emphasizing the need for elections to ensure a unified authority. It is a lesson that the people of Libya hope to pass on to future generations to avoid repeating the errors of past generations.
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