Death Toll from Libya Floods projected to exceed 20,000

The death toll in Libya following Monday’s devastating floods, is currently projected to exceed 20,000. Questions are now being asked if this tragic disaster which has been described as apocalyptic and of biblical proportions, could have been averted.

‘An accident waiting to happen’ – a tragedy that could have been averted

Few are denying that the force of Storm Daniels and its devastating impact are in large degree a result of climate change and therefore that the devastation reeked by it,  following the collapse of two dams in Eastern Libya is a natural disaster by definition. It is a truth that the dams burst at the seams under the weight of the unprecedented overflow and that their collapse released 30 million cubic metres of water onto the unprotected neighborhoods, which lay in their path. However there is emerging evidence that multiple scientific studies and engineering reports in the last few years, have warned of the possibility of the dams bursting and there have been urgent demands for the dams to have their defenses strengthened – all of which have been ignored.

The lack of a unified functioning government across Libya, with rival factions ruling different tranches of the country, has been cited as key to the neglect in taking the necessary steps to put in place safeguards against this ‘accident waiting to happen’.

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced in a shocking admission, that most of the deaths could have been avoided if early warning and emergency management systems had functioned properly in the war-scarred country. Petteri Taalas, Head of WMO, said:

‘they could have issued the warnings and the emergency management forces would have been able to carry out the evacuation of the people, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties’

There are reports that in cities such as Derma which has in the region of 100,000 residents, has seen a quarter of its infrastructure swallowed up by the water, with thousand of bodies floating or being pulled out of the water.  Many bodies have simply been washed out to sea. Estimates of the death toll in Derma alone now exceed 5,000 and the figures are expected to rise. Some of the residents who survived the devastation have described how they clung for hours to floating furniture or raced against the flow by running for blocks along rooftops.

Different ruling factions put aside their differences to cooperate with international rescue and humanitarian agencies

There has been talk that the different factions may collaborate and put aside their differences in order to  coordinate an effective rescue programme and to engage meaningfully with international rescue teams which have pledged to provide humanitarian support and expertise.

International Community responds to the disaster

The UN, United States, European Union and multiple Middle Eastern and North African nations pledged to send rescue teams and aid including food, water tanks, emergency shelters, medical supplies and more body bags. They have been joined in a coordinated effort by Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Romania.

Arab countries have risen to the occasion and are sending Aid. These include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as well as contingencies from Palestine.

Palestinian aid workers on their way to Libya

The United Nations in the last few hours has pledged $10 million to support Libya’s survivors and the estimated 30,000 people who have been displaced by the flooding in Derna.

The International Organization for Migration (IOD) reported widespread power outages and major communications disruptions and said that the challenges facing aid workers were immense. A statement form the IOD read:

 ‘Obstructed, destroyed and flooded roads severely undermine access to humanitarian actors. The bridges over river Derna that connect the eastern part of the city to the west have collapsed’

The UK government has announced financial support in the amount of £1 million and said that it is working with ‘trusted partners on the ground’. Muslim Charities in the UK have launched emergency appeals to raise funds to support the desperate victims of the floods. Islamic Relief issued the following statement:

· We call on all Governments to increase their pledges to aid organisations providing humanitarian responses in Libya. 

· We call on the international community to respond immediately to flood-stricken families’ urgent needs, including emergency shelter, food, clean water, cash transfers, and primary healthcare.

· We call for a joint up Humanitarian response that must include a whole systems approach to the disaster from UN, INGO and NNGOs for flood-affected victims, considering the variable around the vulnerabilities of affected communities.

Islamic Relief, the largest of the UK’s Muslim charities, whilst urging the public for donations, further pointed to the effects of climate change and the urgent need to address the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s statement read: 

‘Libya is experiencing a rising trend in the frequency and severity of disasters and environmental degradation, encompassing phenomena such as floods, sandstorms, land/mudslides, and desertification. These challenges are expected to worsen in the face of ongoing climate change, characterised by projections of a hotter, drier climate across all the region’


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