The aftermath of the dam collapses in Libya is still unfolding, leaving the full extent of the disaster uncertain. Local authorities have confirmed that the death toll has surpassed 5,300, with many feared to still be missing. The Red Cross estimates that at least 10,000 individuals are unaccounted for, suggesting that many may have lost their lives in the catastrophic flooding that hit the port city of Derna over the weekend.
The forceful torrent of muddy water caused major destruction as it swept away multiple bridges and caused the collapse of several multi-storey buildings along the riverbed. Tariq al-Kharraz, a representative of Libya’s eastern government, reported that entire neighborhoods were obliterated, and numerous bodies were carried out to sea.
Derna, with a population of 90,000, lies on the path of the Wadi Derna, a seasonal river protected by dams. However, the dams failed, leading to unprecedented flooding. Images from satellites illustrate the immense scale of the devastation after one of the dams collapsed on Sunday.
This tragedy unfolds against the backdrop of years of conflict and instability in Libya. Since the 2011 uprising that led to the downfall and death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been divided between two rival governments. The Tripoli-based UN-brokered administration and a separate administration in the eastern region, where the disaster occurred.
The lack of investment in infrastructure and public services, coupled with minimal regulation of private construction, has contributed to the vulnerabilities exposed by this disaster. Derna, previously under the control of Islamist militant groups before being captured by Gen Khalifa Haftar’s army in 2019, has faced numerous challenges.
Other nearby areas, such as Bayda and Marj, have also experienced significant damage. Approximately 50 casualties were reported in Bayda, and images showcasing the before and after scenes reveal the extensive destruction to fields and farmland.
The road to recovery will be long and arduous for the affected communities, requiring both immediate humanitarian aid and long-term support to rebuild essential infrastructure and services.