The structural integrity of the Derna dams had been under scrutiny for nearly four decades, revealed Al-Sediq Al-Sour, a Libyan state prosecutor. This revelation comes amidst ongoing searches for victims from the catastrophic floods last week.
The initial concerns over the dams’ structural health can be traced back to 1986. These were built in the 1970s by a Yugoslavian firm and underwent substantial damage following a powerful storm. An official investigation authorised by the Libyan administration a decade afterwards disclosed cracks and fissures in their construction.
Fast-forward to 2007, Arsel Construction Company, a Turkish enterprise, was brought on board to oversee the maintenance of these dams and to construct an additional one. While the company’s official site asserted the completion of the project by November 2012, recent satellite imagery indicates the absence of the third dam. Attempts to get a statement from Arsel went unanswered.
The tumultuous NATO-endorsed revolution and subsequent civil strife in 2011, resulting in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, led to many foreign businesses retreating from Libya.
Post this, nearly £1.6m was designated for the dams. However, a state audit from 2021 suggested that the maintenance remained lacklustre. Al-Sour indicated that a thorough investigation surrounding the dam’s failure and fund appropriation is imminent.
The catastrophic flood led to the death of over 11,000 individuals, and an alarming 10,000 are yet to be accounted for, leaving Derna in ruins.
Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister of Libya’s eastern regime, confirmed on Sunday the interment of 3,283 individuals. Many of these burials took place in large communal graves on the outskirts of Derna, whilst others were transported to neighbouring towns.
The relief efforts are continuously impeded by an absence of coordination, challenges in channeling aid to the most affected regions, and the annihilation of Derna’s infrastructural foundations, inclusive of multiple bridges.
Preceding the onslaught of Storm Daniel, the divided Libyan leaderships – one in the west, underpinned by assorted armed factions, and another in the east, aligned with the so-called Libyan National Army – disseminated contrasting advisories.
Derna’s local council proactively encouraged citizens to vacate coastal zones. In contrast, numerous locals cited receiving mobile notifications persuading them to remain indoors.
Activists now champion the cause for an international inquiry, expressing concerns about the efficacy of a domestic examination in a nation so polarised.
Given the political instability and entrenched internal conflicts, Libya has been a fertile ground for unchecked corruption within its public institutions, as highlighted by Transparency International.
On another note, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed apprehensions regarding potential water contamination post the dam’s failure, predicting another dire crisis. Haider al-Saeih, at the helm of Libya’s Centre for Combating Diseases, reported on television that approximately 150 individuals in Derna contracted diarrhoea from tainted water consumption.
Image Credit: AP Photo/ Jamal Alkomaty
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati commenced his formal dialogues at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, engaging in discussions with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland. Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib was also present during the talks.
The primary emphasis of the discussions was the intricacies of the Lebanese-American alliance, as well as the manifold challenges Lebanon is presently grappling with.
Mr Mikati made a fervent appeal to the global community, urging them to stand by Lebanon in its struggle with the escalating Syrian displacement dilemma, emphasising the monumental threat it places upon Lebanon and the fabric of its society.
Mikati remarked, “We’ve finalised the reform schemes stipulated by the International Monetary Fund, and it’s now up to the parliament to take the necessary actions.”
In response, the U.S. delegate Ms Nuland urged Lebanese political factions to hasten the appointment of a new head of state. She underscored Washington’s endorsement of any intra-Lebanese discourse concerning this.
Moreover, Nuland beseeched Lebanon to bolster its collaborative efforts with global entities, notably the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This is in an effort to address not only the current Syrian displacement issue but all facets of the displacement concern.
Reaffirming Washington’s continued backing for the Lebanese Army, the US official underscored the imperative need to finalise economic and fiscal reforms.
Morocco, a pivotal nation in North Africa, was hit by a devastating earthquake on Friday night. The aftermath has resulted in the loss of over 2,000 lives, with thousands more injured. The impact of the earthquake has been felt deeply, especially around the nation’s epicentre near the bustling city of Marrakech.
On Friday, at precisely 11:11 p.m. local time (6.11 p.m ET), Morocco was shaken by the quake. Its epicentre was identified in the High Atlas mountain range, approximately 72 kilometres southwest of Marrakech, a city with a population nearing a million.
Shockwaves from the earthquake rippled far and wide, with reports of tremors being felt as far north as Casablanca.
Classified as “strong”, the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8. Its shallow depth compounded its destructive nature. Such earthquakes are rare in this region, with the US Geological Survey noting that the area has experienced only nine quakes of magnitude 5 or higher since 1900. This recent earthquake has been the deadliest in Morocco since the catastrophic 1960 event, which claimed over 12,000 lives.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the quake has affected over 300,000 individuals in Marrakech and its neighbouring areas. Notably, some of the most significant damage occurred in areas proximal to the Atlas Mountains. Towns in the mountain foothills, like Asni, have reported severe destruction, with many homes heavily damaged or destroyed. The provinces of Al Haouz and the city of Taroudant have also been gravely impacted.
Emergency services have been actively deployed to the affected areas, although damaged roads and debris have hindered accessibility. In remote villages within the mountain foothills, reaching victims has proven particularly challenging.
Heartbreaking stories emerge from survivors. Mohammed, a resident of Ouirgane, painfully recounted how he lost four family members. For many, like Mohammed, homes have been lost, and lives irrevocably altered.
Many Marrakech residents chose to stay outdoors, fearing aftershocks. The Moroccan government has been proactive, mobilising resources to manage the disaster and urging its citizens to remain calm.
In a gesture of solidarity, King Mohammed VI has established a relief commission to provide aid to those affected by the earthquake.
The global community has been quick to respond to the crisis. Numerous leaders worldwide have extended their condolences and have pledged support.
Turkey has offered to send personnel and tents. Notably, Algeria has offered to reopen its airspace, closed since 2021 due to diplomatic tensions, to facilitate humanitarian efforts.
Leading global figures, including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have sent their condolences.
Furthermore, international organisations such as the International Red Cross have voiced concerns about the long-term recovery process. Hossam Elsharkawi, the Red Cross’s Middle East and North Africa director, mentioned that recovery and reconstruction might span years. Spain has also pledged support, sending specialist workers to assist with the ongoing rescue operations.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that they are closely monitoring the situation and are poised to offer any necessary support.
Image Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP
Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, expressed the nation’s unwavering commitment to the decision made by the United Nations Security Council, which extends the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a further year.
This assertion came during a pivotal meeting at the Grand Serail on Wednesday between Prime Minister Mikati and the Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Aroldo Lázaro. The Prime Minister conveyed, “The Lebanese government stands poised to bolster its collaboration with UNIFIL, leveraging the army’s capabilities to uphold security in the southern region of Lebanon.”
Mr Mikati extolled the ongoing pragmatic synergy between the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. He further urged international forces to intervene and prevent Israeli transgressions that infringe upon Lebanese sovereignty.
The meeting saw Major General Lázaro at the helm of a delegation from UNIFIL, joined by Lebanese Government Coordinator with UNIFIL, Brigadier General Mounir Chehade, and advisor to Prime Minister Mikati, Ziad Mikati.
This week saw Sandra De Waele step into her role as the newly appointed European Union Ambassador to Lebanon.
During her first official week, Ambassador De Waele held meetings with Lebanon’s key figures, including the caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Abdallah Bou Habib, Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, and caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, as reported in an EU Delegation statement.
The statement further highlighted Ambassador De Waele’s emphasis on the European Union’s enduring relationship with Lebanon. She voiced the EU’s resolute commitment to the Lebanese citizens, especially considering the escalating socio-economic turmoil the country faces.
Ambassador De Waele commented, “I am keen to foster close relations with the Lebanese authorities, civil society groups, and the global community to steer Lebanon towards a period of recovery.”
She went on to stress the importance of Lebanon implementing structural reforms, saying, “Institutionalising such reforms is paramount for Lebanon to cultivate resilient state entities that genuinely represent and are accountable to its people. Such a step will undeniably enrich EU-Lebanon ties.”
With over a quarter-century of service under her belt for the European Union, De Waele boasts an impressive career, encompassing assignments in various EU Delegations and most recently a pivotal role at the External Action Service headquarters in Brussels.
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