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Libya orders arrest of 8 officials over flood disaster

September 25, 2023

The mayor of Derna is among those held over allegations of mismanagement and negligence that could have contributed to deadly dam collapses earlier this month.

A general view of Derna, a city inundated by water, buildings and roads severely damaged and broken, after Storm Daniel hit the region, Sept. 12
Tens of thousands of people were displaced in the floods that hit eastern Libya this monthImage: Jamal Alkomaty/AP Photo/picture alliance

Libya's chief prosecutor Monday ordered the detention of eight officials pending a probe into the collapse of two dams that sent a wall of water across the city of Derna, killing thousands.

The dam breaches on September 11 outside Derna, a coastal city in eastern Libya, were triggered by a Mediterranean storm

The death toll ranges between 4,000 and 11,000, according to aid agencies.

Derna mayor among those questioned

Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, who was sacked after the disaster, was among those questioned, according to a statement by the office of General Prosecutor al-Sidiq al-Sour. 

Prosecutors also ordered officials with the Water Resources Authority and the Dams Management Authority jailed pending the completion of the investigation, the statement added.

Debris, dead bodies clutter flood-hit Libyan port


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They were questioned over allegations that mismanagement, negligence and mistakes contributed to the disaster. Prosecutors maintain the officials did not provide enough evidence to avoid being charged. 

The state of dams in Libya

The dams were built by a construction company from former Yugoslavia in the 1970s above Wadi Derna, a river valley which divides the city.

The dams were meant to protect the city from flash floods. A Turkish firm was also contracted in 2007 to carry out maintenance on the two dams that it said it completed in 2012.

A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the two dams hadn’t been maintained despite the allocation of more than $2 million (€1.88 million) for that purpose in 2012 and 2013.

The effect of civil war on Libya's critical infrastructure

Libya has long suffered political turmoil since a pro-democracy uprising more than a decade ago overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The nation has since been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, which complicated the situation on the ground and left critical infrastructure in a state of neglect.

The oil-rich nation also saw a civil war between 2014 and 2020, which greatly damaged critical infrastructure. 

Experts in the country had raised repeated alarm bells, including last year, about the need for dam maintenance.

'Authorities are drastically failing Libyans': analyst


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rm/wmr (Reuters, AP) 

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