(Bloomberg) — Protests broke out in the Libyan city of Derna on Monday as anger mounted over authorities’ preparation and response to the storm, which has left more than 10,000 people dead or missing, deepening political tensions in the country. .
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According to the Libyan Observatory, the house of the mayor of Derna was set on fire as thousands gathered to protest. People called for the removal of the country’s eastern-based parliament and demanded an investigation into whether neglect and corruption led to the collapse of two dams.
The breach of the dams caused flash floods and waves several meters high, destroying a quarter of the city of 90,000. Libyan officials said the official death toll was about 3,400, although estimates range as high as 11,000. At least more than 9,000 people are missing.
According to footage broadcast by Libyan Ahrar television, protesters chanted, “There is no god but God and Aguila is the enemy of God.” He was referring to Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Eastern Parliament.
The protesters said their city “has been living with open injustice for more than 60 years.” They said they would “not accept anything other than their demands.”
Libyan authorities are struggling to deal with the crisis. Initial rescue and recovery efforts were hampered by damage caused by the flood. International organizations have warned of increasing health risks, including cholera, from contaminated water.
In the past the authorities have already ordered the removal of the entire city council and sent them for investigation.
Derna’s suffering began long before the flood and its resulting deaths.
Under Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, who was ousted in 2011, it was largely neglected and served as the home of opposition to the dictator. After his ouster, it emerged as a hub for religious extremists, including al-Qaeda-linked groups, before those movements were crushed by eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar in 2018.
Even after those groups were defeated, the city was viewed with suspicion by Haftar and the Libyan National Army, which he leads, meaning it did not receive the same aid and attention as other eastern cities such as Benghazi, which That is located 290 kilometers west. Darna.
Read more: Death toll from Libya floods reaches 11,300 amid recovery and allegations
Inequality was further exacerbated by Libya’s post-2011 uprising politics. Libya, an OPEC member that tops Africa’s largest reserves of crude oil, is ruled by rival administrations in the east and west – a rift created by the fighting and chaos that followed Gaddafi’s ouster.
A main complaint is that the Eastern Parliament failed to convene until three days after the flood. Survivors, volunteers, militia forces and international rescue workers struggled to survey the damage after the waters effectively destroyed at least a quarter of the city, according to Libyan officials.
Libyan authorities in the east have pledged at least 10 billion dinars ($2.1 billion) to help Derna and other storm-hit cities recover. But political divisions in the country have the potential to weaken a unified response.
About 20 countries have offered help, either sending rescue teams or pledging funding or flying in relief supplies, according to Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the head of the Tripoli-based government. The United States said it would provide $11 million to local and international groups.
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