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Libya floods: scale and complexity of crisis

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
15 September 2023 | 10:30am SAST
2-min read

Picture: YouTube/ NBC News

The situation in the aftermath of the Libya floods was discussed during an interview on Radio Islam International with Dr Kharilmizal Samsudin, a lecturer at the University of Science in Malaysia. The discussion covered the scale and complexity of this crisis and highlighted the challenges faced by both the affected population and humanitarian responders.

The catastrophic event in eastern Libya unfolded as a result of a convergence of factors. Two dams, the Wadi Derna Dam and the Wadi al-Rakha Dam, were unable to withstand the pressure from storm Daniel’s rainfall. This resulted in a flash flood that engulfed the city.

Dr Samsudin described this as a “hybrid-type disaster,” where natural and man-made elements combined to create a perfect storm of destruction. When asked about the cause of the dam burst, he attributed it partially to the overwhelming force of the storm but also highlighted challenges in governance and infrastructure maintenance due to political and social disorder within the country.

The consequences have been devastating. The floodwaters swept away entire communities into the Mediterranean Sea, with 5 000 people confirmed dead, and an additional 10 000 individuals still missing. Bridges, roads, and crucial infrastructures have been severely damaged, hindering the ability of responders to reach those in need.

The situation has also raised significant concerns about public health. Dr Samsudin explained that the aftermath of such disasters extends beyond the initial impact and can lead to the spread of diseases. Waterborne diseases, skin infections, hepatitis A and E, cholera, typhoid, and fibrosis are among the major health concerns due to contaminated water sources.

Furthermore, overcrowded living conditions and damaged buildings can foster the spread of respiratory diseases. Breeding grounds for disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, create the potential for outbreaks of diseases like leptospirosis and malaria.

Dr Samsudin emphasised the importance of addressing not only the physical health aspects but also the mental and psychological well-being of the affected population. The trauma, disappointment, and depression experienced by victims can have long-lasting effects, requiring comprehensive support.

One glimmer of hope amid the crisis is the international response. Reports suggest that despite the political discord within Libya, assistance is arriving from various countries, including Egypt, Turkey, UAE, Tunisia, Spain, and Italy. However, the lack of a clear central authority makes coordination and access challenging, raising concerns about the safety of both supplies and responders. Regarding the international response, Dr Samsudin highlighted the challenge, stating, “So this coordination of international assistance will be challenging without clear central authority.”

The United Nations has noted requests for aid from both eastern and western governments of Libya. However, this division further complicates efforts to manage the crisis efficiently. Dr Samsudin stressed the need for political cooperation and trust between the opposing parties to ensure a unified response to the disaster.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.

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