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Libya divides flood-hit city into sections to prevent potential spread of disease

  • Last week, some dams near Derna collapsed during a Mediterranean storm and sent destructive waves of water through the Libyan city.
  • While government officials and humanitarian agencies have released conflicting statistics, the Libyan Red Crescent said the death toll from the massive floods in Derna has reached 11,000 and another 10,000 people are missing.
  • To prevent the spread of a possible epidemic, Libya divided the city of Derna into four sections.

The prime minister of Libya’s eastern administration said Tuesday that authorities had divided the flood-hit town of Derna into four sections to create buffer zones in case of outbreaks, a day after thousands of protesters angry demanded a rapid reconstruction of the city.

Last week, two dams collapsed during Mediterranean Storm Daniel, causing a wall of water to gush across Derna. Government officials and humanitarian agencies have reported the death toll ranging from around 4,000 to 11,000.

“Now the affected areas are completely isolated, the armed forces and the government have started to create a buffer zone for fear of spreading diseases or epidemics,” Prime Minister Ossama Hamad said in a telephone interview with the Saudi television channel Al-Arabiya. No further details were given.


According to local media, the internet went down in the east of the country on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the United Nations warned that an outbreak could create “a devastating second crisis.”

Libyan protesters gathered in central Derna on Monday for the first mass demonstration since the floods. Outside the city’s al-Shabana mosque, thousands of people called for a speedy investigation into the disaster, urgent reconstruction of the city and other demands.

Rescuers and relatives of victims set up tents in front of collapsed buildings in Derna, Libya, September 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Muhammad J. Elalwany)

On Monday evening, the city’s former mayor, Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi, said his house had been set on fire by protesters. The prosecution opened an investigation on Saturday into the collapse of the two dams, built in the 1970s, as well as the allocation of funds for their maintenance. The same day, al Gaithi was suspended pending investigation.

Many city residents see politicians as the architects of the crisis. The country has been divided between rival administrations since 2014. Both are backed by international patrons and armed militias whose influence in the country has exploded since the NATO-backed Arab Spring uprising that toppled autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.


Both authorities deployed humanitarian teams to the city, but struggled to respond to the large-scale disaster. The reconstruction operation, with the help of international teams, has been poorly coordinated and residents say the distribution of aid has been uneven.

Contradictory reports and statistics have been published by various official organizations.


Bashir Omar, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Tuesday that search and rescue teams were still recovering bodies from under the rubble of destroyed buildings and from the sea. He told the The Associated Press said the deaths numbered “in the thousands”, but did not give a precise toll for the recovered bodies, explaining that many groups were involved in their collection.

The Libyan Red Crescent said last week that at least 11,300 people had been killed and another 10,000 missing. After reporting the same toll, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs now puts forward much lower figures, i.e. around 4,000 people killed and 9,000 missing.

Fox Gt

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