Nearly two weeks after catastrophic floods wreaked havoc on an entire neighborhood in eastern Libya, authorities in the affected region have declared their plans to host an international reconstruction conference. The conference, scheduled for October 10, aims to address the urgent need for rebuilding infrastructure and providing relief to the devastated communities.
Protests Erupt in Flood-Hit City of Derna
On September 18, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Derna’s grand mosque to express their anger and frustration over the high death toll caused by the floods. Demonstrators chanted slogans against the eastern-based parliament and its leader while demanding accountability. Among their demands is a thorough investigation into the current city council and past budgets.
Ahmed el-Mesmari, the spokesperson for the Libyan national army leader Khalifa Haftar, expressed solidarity with the protesters and acknowledged their grievances. He stated, “The people are angry, the people are suffering, we are suffering too, we are part of the people, we are not strangers to them, so we feel what they feel. I myself have lost members of my family in this situation. You have to listen very carefully to the anger of the people. Their voice has reached and moved all the institutions of power and politicians in Libya. This will lead to an investigation of everything that happened.”
Divided Libya Faces Challenges
Libya remains divided with rival governments, with the UN-backed administration situated in Tripoli in the country’s west. In 2019, Haftar’s forces launched a failed assault on Tripoli, leading to a ceasefire in August 2020. The spokesman for east Libya’s strongman, Khalifa Haftar, indicated that the upcoming conference is a response to the demands of residents in the affected region. He expressed uncertainty about international donor participation, given Libya’s political polarization, stating, “Are the donor countries really going to come? Or will they wait for a conference called by Dbeibah, or will there be two conferences? Like there are two governments. This political polarization has had a negative effect on Libyans.”
The conference’s primary objective is to present rapid and modern projects for the reconstruction of the affected areas. The UN-backed government led by Abdelhamid Dbeiba has not yet responded to this development. However, no details have been provided regarding how the eastern administration plans to accommodate delegates in the devastated city.
Mounting Casualties and Disruptions
The precise death toll from the devastating floods in Derna and nearby coastal towns remains uncertain, with bodies still being discovered under debris or washing up on beaches after being swept into the sea by the floodwaters. The latest official death toll released on Friday evening stands at 3,753, with thousands of people still missing.
The floods, which occurred following a hurricane-strength storm on September 10, led to a tsunami-sized flash flood that breached two aging dams upstream from the city.
In a related development, mobile and internet services in Derna were recently restored following a two-day disruption that occurred after the September 18 protests. Amnesty International has reported “arrests of critics and protesters” in the port city.