published : 2023-09-25

Mismanagement and Negligence: 8 Libyan Officials Detained After Tragic Dam Collapse

Investigation reveals officials may have contributed to disaster that claimed thousands of lives

Aerial view of the collapsed dams in Derna, Libya, taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone.

Libya's chief prosecutor has ordered the detention of eight current and former officials following the collapse of two dams earlier this month.

The dams, located outside the city of Derna, gave way on September 11 after being overwhelmed by Storm Daniel and heavy rainfall across eastern Libya.

As a result, a devastating flood engulfed a quarter of the city, destroying neighborhoods and sweeping people out to sea.

Estimates of the death toll range from over 4,000 to more than 11,000, with many bodies still buried under rubble or lost at sea.

The officials, accused of mismanagement, negligence, and mistakes, are now in custody pending the completion of the investigation.

Despite the challenges posed by Libya's years of divided leadership, the chief prosecutor considers the questioning and detention of officials to be a crucial first step.

Calls for an international investigation highlight the public's deep mistrust in state institutions.

Rescue team searching through the rubble in Derna, Libya, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.

The tragedy in Derna is a stark reminder of the ongoing chaos in Libya since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that led to the ousting and subsequent death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

With rival administrations vying for control, the country remains divided.

In the east, General Khalifa Hifter and his Libyan National Army hold power, while the capital, Tripoli, supports a rival administration backed by the international community.

The dams in Derna were constructed in the 1970s to protect the city from flash floods, but went without maintenance for decades despite warnings from scientists.

A state-run audit in 2021 revealed that the dams had not been properly maintained, even though funds were allocated for this purpose in previous years.

A Turkish construction company was contracted in 2007 to conduct maintenance work on the dams and build a third one, but they have not responded to inquiries about their work.

The aftermath of the dam collapse has led to ongoing efforts to search and recover bodies from the mud and debris, both in the city and the Mediterranean Sea.

Destroyed houses and infrastructure in Derna, Libya, taken with a Nikon D850 camera.

The United Nations estimates that one-third of Derna's housing and infrastructure has been damaged, with over 9,000 people still missing.

Foreigners living in eastern Libya were among the casualties of the storm, which also affected other towns in the region.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and sought shelter in government buildings and schools.

As investigations unfold and accountability is pursued, the tragedy serves as a call for better governance and disaster preparedness in the war-torn nation.

The emotional toll, loss of life, and devastation caused by the collapse of the dams in Libya demand urgent action to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.