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What Caused Devastating Floods Happen in Libya?

People search for flood victims in Derna, Libya, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Search teams are combing streets, wrecked buildings, and even the sea to look for bodies in Derna, where the collapse of two dams unleashed a massive flash flood that killed thousands of people.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe deadly flooding event in Libya began when a rare Mediterranean storm exhibiting hurricane-like characteristics unleashed torrential rainfall on the North African nation, setting a new record with over 16 inches of rainfall in a span of 24 hours.Days after two dams in Libya’s eastern city of Derna unleashed colossal amounts of water that swept away entire neighborhoods and killed thousands and left several thousand others missing, experts have pinpointed how a lethal combination of setbacks contributed to the severity of the catastrophe.While officials have not definitively attributed the storm to climate change, it has been acknowledged that the warming temperatures were among factors that contributed to the intensity of such extreme events.AfricaLibya Floods: Death Toll Surges Past 5,000 as Thousands Remain Missing14 September, 00:20 GMTAdditionally noted was the fact that Derna, a city historically susceptible to flooding, faced a critical issue with aging dams as they had been constructed by a Yugoslav company between 1973 and 1977, and had not undergone maintenance since 2002, according to Arabic media.A research paper from Libya’s Sebha University had warned of the «catastrophic» flood potential and the need for periodic maintenance. It was further detailed how the area lacked sufficient vegetation to prevent soil erosion.AfricaRussia Sends Aid to Libya Where Floods Death Toll Exceeds 11,00015 September, 10:09 GMTExperts also highlighted the challenge of forecasting dam failures, which can be sudden and destructive. The risk posed by climate-induced extreme weather events to global infrastructure — from dams to buildings and water supplies, underscores the urgent need for preparedness in the face of the unexpected and intensifying climate-related challenges.Petteri Taalas, the head of the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, drew attention to issues regarding alert systems.

"If there would have been a normally operating meteorological service, they would have issued the warnings and also the emergency management of this would have been able to carry out evacuations of the people and we would have avoided most of the human casualties," Taalas told reporters at a Thursday conference, as quoted by media.

Citing the Red Crescent Movement, local media reported the flooding death toll exceeded 11,000, with upwards of 10,000 people still missing. However, the latest official update on Wednesday afternoon put the death toll from the floods at over 7,000.The mayor of Derna, Abdulmenam Al-Ghaithi, said on Wednesday the death toll could reach as high as 20,000.Also of growing concern for authorities on the scene is the possibility of infections breaking out due to the late discoveries of decomposing bodies and a lack of burial spaces. Abdel-Rahim Mazek, the head of the main medical center in the city of Al Bayda, told Sputnik that «the spread of infections and epidemics» was a real factor in the area.

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