Behind Libya’s catastrophic flooding: Extreme weather, vulnerable geography, and crumbling infrastructure

Source: The post is based on the article “Behind Libya’s catastrophic flooding: Extreme weather, vulnerable geography, and crumbling infrastructure”  published in Indian Express on 14th September 2023

What is the News?

More than 5,000 people have died and thousands more are missing after devastating floods swept through the Libyan port city of Derna.

Where is Derna?

Derna is a port city in eastern Libya.It lies on a narrow coastal plain on the Mediterranean under steep mountains running along the coast.

What factors contributed to the devastating floods in Libya’s eastern region Derna?

Extreme Weather: The flooding occurred due to exceptional rainfall.For instance, Al-Bayda and Derna, typically receiving minimal rain, experienced a record-breaking rain.

– This extreme weather was caused by Storm Daniel, also known as Cyclone Daniel, originating in Greece.As it moved across the Mediterranean Sea, it transitioned into a “medicane,” gaining strength from abnormally warm sea surface temperatures. 

– Higher temperatures, likely a consequence of global warming, intensified the storm, resulting in more powerful winds and heavier rainfall.

Vulnerable Geography: Derna, a coastal city with approximately 1 lakh inhabitants suffered the most destruction. 

– The city’s location at the end of a valley and bisected by the Wadi Derna, a seasonal river typically protected by dams, made it susceptible to flooding. 

– Cyclone Daniel’s impact caused the collapse of dams outside the city, leading to flash floods down Wadi Derna that inundated the city.

Crumbling Infrastructure: The collapse of the dams highlighted Libya’s dilapidated infrastructure, worsened by a decade-long conflict between rival factions. 

– Political turmoil shifted focus away from maintaining and developing critical infrastructure, including dams, desalination plants, electrical grids, and roads.Neglect of infrastructure throughout the country left it in disrepair.

– Libya’s lack of flood-resilient structures, roads, and early-warning systems further exacerbated the catastrophe as flooding is rare in the region.

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