Libya’s deadly dam collapse was decades in the making

With thousands of people dead and tens of thousands more left homeless by floods as a storm burst through the dams next to the east Libyan city of Derna, FRANCE 24 looks back at the years of violence and neglect that left the city ill-prepared for the unprecedented natural disasters of the climate crisis.

Towards dawn on Monday, September 11, the waters of the Wadi Derna river burst through the dams that had been built to hold them at bay. Swollen with unheard-of rainfall dragged across the Mediterranean by Storm Daniel, the river crashed through the coastal city of Derna in Libya’s east, killing thousands of people and leaving entire neighbourhoods in ruins. Members of the country’s eastern administration have put the death toll at more than 5,000 people, with 10,000 more still missing. Dozens of bodies continue to wash up along the coast.

Liz Stephens, a professor in climate risks and resilience at the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology, said that the dams' collapse had been catastrophic.

“While Storm Daniel brought exceptional rainfall totals to eastern Libya, the tragic loss of life will have been largely due to the failure of dams, with a sudden release of water providing little time to reach safety, and the entrained debris adding to the violent force of the floodwaters,” she told FRANCE 24.

‘The consequences will be disastrous’

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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