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Libyans protest against authorities in flood-hit Derna

September 18, 2023 at 7:42 pm

A view of devastation after the floods caused by the Storm Daniel ravaged the region, in Derna, Libya on September 16, 2023 [Abdullah Mohammed Bonja/Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds of people protested in the eastern Libyan city of Derna on Wednesday, venting anger against authorities and demanding accountability, one week after a flood killed thousands of its residents and destroyed entire neighbourhoods, Reuters reports.

Protesters took aim at officials, including the head of the eastern-based Libyan Parliament, Aguila Saleh, during the demonstration outside the Sahaba Mosque. Some sat on its roof in front of its golden dome, a Derna landmark.

Aguila we don’t want you! All Libyans are brothers!

protesters chanted, calling for national unity in a country left politically fractured by more than a decade of conflict and chaos.

Monday’s protest marks the first large demonstration since the flood, which swept through Derna when two dams in the hills outside the city failed during a powerful storm, unleashing a devastating torrent.

READ: A week after Libya floods, families haunted by fate of the missing

Said Mansour, a student taking part in the protest, said he wanted an urgent investigation into the collapse of the dams, which

made us lose thousands of our beloved people

Taha Miftah, 39, said the protest was a message that

the governments have failed to manage the crisis

saying the Parliament was especially to blame.

He called for an international inquiry into the disaster and “for reconstruction under international supervision”.

The full scale of the death toll has yet to emerge, with thousands of people still missing. Officials have given widely varying death tolls. The World Health Organisation has confirmed 3,922 deaths.

Saleh, last week, sought to deflect blame from authorities, describing the flood as an “unprecedented natural disaster” and saying people should not focus on what could or should have been done.

But commentators have drawn attention to warnings given in advance, including an academic paper published last year by a hydrologist outlining the city’s vulnerability to floods and the urgent need to maintain the dams that protected it.

Derna is located in eastern Libya – a part of the country controlled by military commander, Khalifa Haftar, and overseen by a government established in parallel to the internationally recognised administration in Tripoli, in the west.

READ: UN warns 2 other dams in Libya may burst