Storm Daniel: Investigations Into Collapse Of Derna Dam Involve Government Officials – OpEd


Investigations into the Derna Dam collapse, which occurred during Mediterranean storm Daniel last week in Libya, are involving government officials. A wall of water gushed through Derna, with death tolls ranging from approximately 4,000 to 11,000, and thousands more still missing.

Due to the involvement of officials from the present administration in the investigation into the collapse of the Derna Dam, and measures to ensure justice is served and to bring those responsible to account, the affected areas are now completely isolated. To create buffers and prevent the spread of diseases or epidemics, the armed forces and authorities have divided Derna into four sections. 

A day after thousands of angry protesters demanded the city’s rapid reconstruction and called for the results of the investigation, as negligence and financial corruption have been ongoing issues for the past two decades, it has become apparent that had measures been taken during the past several years, the Derna disaster could have been averted.

The country has been divided between rival administrations since 2014 the first civil war . Both goverenments are backed by international patrons and armed militias whose influence in the country has ballooned since a NATO-backed toppled autocratic ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Due to the poor infrastructure, the entire communications network in the city was suddenly cut off. The damage to the fiber optic cables caused the interruption of communications and the Internet in a number of areas of the Eastern Province due to the collapse of the city and the infrastructure. It became difficult for the government to communicate with the people and find out where relief was located. While both authorities have deployed humanitarian teams with help from international teams to the city but have struggled to respond to the large-scale disaster which is has been poorly coordinated, aid distribution has been uneven the International Committee of the Red Cross, search and rescue teams were still retrieving bodies from under the rubble of wrecked buildings and from the sea.

A crowd of surviving people gathered in Derna, demanding the overthrow of the House of Representatives because of their corruption and the Municipal Council of the city of Derna, holding them responsible for the extent of the damage and the number of victims. They consider the Derna disaster a starting point for change and want to replace the Steering Council Al-Ghaithi as Chairman of the Steering Council of the Municipality of Derna, shortly after Haftar’s forces had taken control of the city in late 2018, as well as refer it for investigation.

On 16 September 2023, 29 metric tonnes of health supplies arrived in Benghazi, Libya, from the WHO Global Logistics Hub in Dubai. These supplies include essential medicines, trauma and emergency surgery supplies, and medical equipment, as well as body bags for the safe and dignified movement and burial of the deceased. So far, the bodies of people have been recovered and identified, and death certificates have been issued.

Every day, WHO sends a shipment to help replenish supplies in more than half of the health facilities in the affected areas. These supplies are given to hospitals and will be crucial in restoring their functionality. The 29 metric tonnes (130 cubic metres) of supplies also address the lack of functioning due to shortages of medicines and medical equipment.

A meeting between the Minister of Local Government, Bader Aldeen al-Tumi, and the German Ambassador Michael Ohnmacht, along with the Italian Ambassador Gianluca Alberini, was held to discuss joint cooperation in the fields of relief and reconstruction. Starting with the challenges facing the operations of distributing aid and delivering supplies, and the Libyan Business Council to complete a stalled 2000-apartment project in Derna to house flood victims, Libya faces challenges such as the need to swiftly serve this major crisis by the local authorities alone due to their lack of experience in dealing with crises.

The cooperation discussed included rehabilitating the city’s port, implementing a project to establish a bridge linking the east and west of the city, and providing joint training and workshops to enhance emergency response capabilities in Libya.
In the end, will the investigation be successfully completed? The questions now are: why has the dam not been repaired? Why was the evacuation not carried out? Why are people demanding that the local council be held accountable for not investing in infrastructure and why has the government not been held accountable for its slow response to the disaster?

The past years have highlighted political neglect on the part of previous rulers and a lack of investment in infrastructure and services, including front-line emergency services. As a result, the Libyan people are now angry about the political infighting and conflicts over control of the country’s extensive wealth of oil and gas, instead of investing that money in the country’s development. Had well-trained and equipped emergency services been available, more lives could have been saved.

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