It started with noise around 3am on Monday when the residents of Terna were sleeping. A dam broke, then a second, Sends a huge wave Thousands were killed as whole neighborhoods were swept into the sea as it rushed through the mountains towards the coastal Libyan city.
This week’s floods have killed at least 5,000 people in Libya, Médecins Sans Frontières said in a statement on Thursday, revising an earlier estimate.
The eastern Libyan city of Derna, the epicenter of the disaster, had a population of around 100,000 before the tragedy. Officials say at least 10,000 people are missing. CNN could not independently verify the figures.
01:09 – Source: CNN
Libyan doctor tears into the air as he hears the death toll
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said on Thursday that bodies were now being washed ashore again, buildings, homes and infrastructure were “destroyed” when a 7-metre (23-foot) wave hit the town. Shore.
But with thousands killed and many more missing, questions remain as to why the storm, which battered Greece and other countries, wreaked such havoc in Libya.
Experts say that apart from a strong storm, The disaster in Libya It is greatly exacerbated by a dangerous confluence of factors including aging, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate warnings and the impacts of an accelerating climate crisis.
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The heavy rainfall that hit Libya on Sunday was brought by a system Daniel Storm.
After sweeping Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria Severe flooding It killed more than 20 people and became a “medicine” in the Mediterranean – a relatively rare type of storm with hurricane and typhoon-like characteristics.
The drug strengthened as it crossed the unusually warm waters of the Mediterranean before heavy rain hit Libya on Sunday.
It brought 16 inches (414 mm) of rainfall in 24 hours to Al-Bayda city, west of Derna, a new record.
Although it is too early to definitively attribute storms to the climate crisis, scientists believe that climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes. Warmer oceans provide fuel for storms to grow, and a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, meaning more intense precipitation.
“Storms are becoming more violent because of climate change,” said Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at the University of Reading in England.
Terna is prone to flooding, and its dam reservoirs have caused at least five deadly floods since 1942, the latest of which was in 2011, a step Research paper Published last year by Libya’s Seba University.
The two dams that burst on Monday were built nearly half a century ago between 1973 and 1977. by the Yugoslav Construction Company. Terna Dam is 75 meters (246 ft) high and has a storage capacity of 18 million cubic meters (4.76 billion gallons). The second dam, Mansoor, is 45 meters (148 ft) high and has a capacity of 1.5 million cubic meters (396 million gallons).
The dams have not been maintained by the city since 2002 Deputy Mayor Ahmed Madroud told Al Jazeera.
But the problems with the dams were evident. A Seba University paper warned that dams in Terna have a “high potential for flood risk” and require periodic maintenance to avoid “catastrophic” floods.
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“The current situation of the Wadi Terna reservoir requires the authorities to take immediate steps to periodically maintain the existing dams,” a report last year suggested. “Because if there is a major flood, the consequences will be devastating for the residents of the valley and the city.” It also found that the surrounding area lacked sufficient vegetation to prevent soil erosion. Also, the people of the area should be made aware about the risk of flooding.
Liz Stephens, a professor of climate risks and resilience at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, told CNN that there are serious questions to be asked about the design quality of the dam and whether the risk of extreme rainfall events was adequately taken into account. Account.
“It is very clear that without this dam break, we would not have seen the tragic number of deaths that occurred as a result,” he said.
“The dams would have initially held back the water, and their failure could have released all the water at once,” Stephens told the Center for Science Media, adding that “debris caught in the floodwaters would have added to the destructive force.”
Terna has suffered in the past, and its infrastructure has been stretched by years of fighting.
Since fighting ISIS and, later, eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), the city’s infrastructure has crumbled and is woefully inadequate in the face of the floods brought by Storm Daniel.
Better warnings could have avoided most of the casualties in Terna, said Petteri Talas, head of the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.
“If there had been a regular weather service, they would have issued warnings and emergency management would have been able to evacuate people and we would have avoided most of the human casualties,” Talas said. Reporters at a press conference Thursday.
Talas added that political instability in the country is hampering WMO’s efforts to work with the Libyan government to improve these systems.
Still, Glock said, even robust early warning systems are no guarantee that all lives will be saved.
He told CNN that dam failures will be very difficult to predict, and they will be swift and ferocious. “You have this horrible amount of water, completely draining the city,” Cloke said. “This is one of the worst floods ever.”
Although dams are typically designed to withstand relatively extreme events, that’s often not enough, Cloke said. “We have to be prepared for the unexpected, and then you put climate change on top, and it increases these unexpected events.”
The risk climate-fueled extreme weather poses to infrastructure — not just dams, but everything from buildings to water supplies — is a global one. “We’re not prepared for extreme events coming our way,” Klock said.