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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Government investigates dam collapse that caused 11,000 deaths – El Financiero

The attorney general of Libya announced the opening of a investigation about him collapse of two dams that caused a devastating flood in a coastal town, as rescue teams continued to search for bodies on Saturday, almost a week after the flood that claimed the lives of more than 11 thousand people.

Last weekend, the heavy rains of the Mediterranean storm Daniel caused deadly flooding in eastern Libya. The two dams overflowed and sent a wall of water several meters high high through the center of Derna that destroyed entire neighborhoods and swept the residents into the sea.

More than 10 thousand people are still missing, according to the Libyan Red Crescent. Six days later, rescuers continued digging through the mud and rubble of fallen buildings in search of bodies and possible survivors.

Claire Nicolet, head of the emergency department at Doctors without bordersnoted that rescuers had found “many bodies” on Friday and that the operation was still underway.

“It was a large number (…) Unfortunately, the sea continues to throw up many bodies,” he told The Associated Press.

Help is still needed, including urgent psychological assistance for those who have lost their families, he added, stating that burials remain a major challengedespite some progress in coordinating search efforts and distributing aid.

Authorities and aid groups have expressed concern about the spread of diseases transmitted by water and by the movement of explosive devices from the recent armed conflicts in the country.

Haider al-Saeih, director of the National Center for Disease Control, said in televised statements on Saturday that at least 150 people had suffered from diarrhea after taking contaminated water in Derna and urged the population to consume only the bottled water that is distributed.

Attorney General Al Sediq al-Sour said that The prosecution will investigate the collapse of the two dams, which were built in the 1970s, in addition to the allocation of funds for their maintenance. City authorities, as well as previous governments, will be investigated, he added.

“I assure citizens that whoever made mistakes or negligence, the prosecution will take firm action, file a criminal case against them and prosecute them,” he said at a press conference in Derna on Friday night.

The execution of the investigation is unclear in a country that fell into chaos after the popular revolt, backed by the NATOwho overthrew the dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. For much of the last decade, Libya has been divided between rival governments — one in the east and one in the west — that are supported by powerful militias and international backers.

Report warns that the dams had not received maintenance

One of the consequences is the abandonment of crucial infrastructure at a time when climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and severe.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at the London-based Royal Service Institute for Defense and Security Studies, said an inquiry could pose “a unique challenge” to judicial authorities because it could reach the highest levels of the leadership in the east and the west.

Since 2014, eastern Libya is under the control of general Khalifa Hifter and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army. The rival government, established in the capital, Tripoli, controls most of the national funds and oversees infrastructure projects. Dissent is tolerated on neither side.

“The main obstacle to a thorough investigation is the behavior of the Hifter coalition; “His historic lack of accountability could obstruct the clarification of the truth,” Harchaoui said.

Municipal authorities had warned the population about the storm, and on Sunday the evacuation of coastal areas was ordered for fear of a storm surge. But There was no warning about the dams, which gave way in the early hours of Monday while most of the neighbors slept in their homes.

A report from a state audit agency determined in 2021 that the structures they had not received maintenanceeven though they were assigned more than two million dollars for that purpose in 2012 and 2013.

In 2007, a Turkish company was hired to carry out maintenance and build another dam between the two. The company, Arsel Construction Company Limitedindicated on its website that its work ended in November 2012. It did not respond to an email seeking further comment.

Search continues for survivors

Local and international rescuers worked tirelessly to find corpses and possible survivors in this city of 90 thousand inhabitants.

Ayoub said his father and nephew died in Derna on Monday, a day after the family fled the floods in the nearby town of Bayda. Her mother and her sister ran up the stairs to the roof, but the others couldn’t.

“I found the boy in the water near his grandfather,” said Ayoub, who only identified himself by his first name. “I still can’t believe what happened.”

Al-Sour asked residents to have missing relatives to contact the forensic committee that works documenting and identifying the bodies found.

“We ask citizens to cooperate and go immediately to the committee headquarters so that we can finish this work as soon as possible,” he explained.

The storm hit other areas of eastern Libya, such as the cities of Bayda, Susa, Marj and Shahatt. Tens of thousands of people are displaced and have taken shelter in schools and other government buildings.

Dozens of foreigners among the dead, including some who had fled war and unrest in other countries in the region. Others had come to the country to work or to try to get to Europe from there. At least 74 men from a single village in Egypt died in the floods, in addition to dozens of people fleeing the flood. war in syria.

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