NAIROBI/LONDON: North Africa suffered two disasters in three days when a devastating earthquake struck Morocco on Friday, followed by catastrophic flooding in Libya on Sunday, leaving thousands dead and many more missing, sparking a global aid response.
On Friday night, a powerful earthquake, measuring 6.8 in magnitude, struck high in the Atlas Mountains about 70 km south of Marrakech, flattening whole villages, killing at least 2,900 people and leaving thousands more homeless.
In Morocco’s Al-Haouz province, isolated farming communities have been left cut off, with many fending entirely for themselves. It was the North African country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful in more than a century.
Just as aid agencies and donor nations were rolling out their response to this catastrophe, another disaster was unfolding to the east in crisis-torn Libya, where Storm Daniel caused two river dams to burst on Sunday afternoon.
The enormous surge of water released by the dams tore through the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna, sweeping buildings, vehicles and people into the sea. The confirmed death toll surpassed 5,000 on Wednesday, with thousands more still unaccounted for.
“Libya’s situation is a roller coaster. We’ve been through so much — conflicts, political ups and downs, and now these floods adding to the chaos,” Mohammed Thabit, a Tripoli-based citizen journalist, told Arab News.
“But remember, we’re a resilient bunch. We’ve faced worse and we’ll keep pushing for a brighter tomorrow, no matter the challenges.”
The city of Derna, 300 km east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, which became a raging torrent of mud-brown water that also swept away several major bridges.
Derna was home to about 100,000 people and many of its multistory buildings on the banks of the riverbed collapsed, with people, their homes and cars vanishing into the raging waters.
“In the face of these devastating floods in Libya, it’s a heartbreaker,” Thabit said. “Our dams got some funding, but it seems some folks ran off with the money instead of fixing things. Tough times, but we’re tougher.”
The Libyan Presidential Council has declared the cities of Derna, Shahat and Al-Bayda in Cyrenaica disaster zones and requested international support to confront the effects of the floods caused by the storm.
Source : Arab News