Libya is facing a humanitarian crisis after a powerful storm caused devastating floods that broke dams and swept away entire neighborhoods in multiple coastal towns. The destruction appeared greatest in Derna city, where the death toll has risen to 6,000 and thousands more are feared dead or missing.
Mediterranean storm Daniel hit Libya on September 10, 2023, bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds to the eastern region. The storm caused two nearby dams to collapse, unleashing a torrent of water that flooded Derna, a city of 90,000 people. The water levels reached the fourth or fifth floors of some buildings, trapping and drowning many residents. The flood also destroyed roads, bridges, power lines, and communication networks, hampering the rescue and relief efforts.
The eastern Ministry of Interior said the figure of 6,000 dead is expected to rise as recovery operations continue in Libya’s devastated eastern city. Rescuers and aid convoys are struggling to get to Derna, which has only one functional road left leading into it. More than 1,000 bodies have been collected, including at least 700 who have been buried so far. The eastern health minister said the corpses are still scattered in various hospitals awaiting identification.
The eastern government, which is one of the rival administrations in the divided OPEC nation, has pledged two billion Libyan dinars ($414 million) in assistance to Derna and other areas affected by the storm. The western government, which is based in Tripoli and backed by the United Nations, has also expressed its solidarity and readiness to help.
Several countries and organizations have also offered their support and aid to Libya. Egypt, Algeria, France, Iran, Italy, Qatar, Tunisia, the United States, and Islamic Relief have all sent or committed supplies, personnel, or funds to assist the flood victims. The World Health Organization said it has deployed teams and medical supplies to Derna and Al Marj, another city hit by the storm.
Libya has been mired in conflict and instability since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. The country has suffered a dearth of investment in infrastructure and social services, leaving its people vulnerable to natural disasters. The storm has exposed the fragility of Libya’s situation and the need for political reconciliation and economic recovery.