GlobalThey divide a flooded city in Libya to contain possible disease outbreaks

They divide a flooded city in Libya to contain possible disease outbreaks

Authorities have divided the Libyan city of Derna, devastated by severe flooding, into four sections to contain possible disease outbreaks, the government’s prime minister in eastern Libya said on Tuesday. Thousands of angry protesters had demanded the previous day that the city be rebuilt quickly.

Two dams collapsed last week during Mediterranean Storm Daniel, causing a huge wave to hit Derna. The government and humanitarian agencies have given estimates of between 4,000 and 11,000 deaths.

“Now the affected areas are completely isolated, the armed forces and the government have begun to create a separation for fear of the spread of diseases or pandemics,” said Prime Minister Ossama Hamad in a telephone interview with Saudi television station Al- Arabiya. No further details were given.

The United Nations had warned on Monday that a disease outbreak could create “a second devastating crisis.”

Libyan protesters gathered in central Derna on Monday in the first mass demonstration since the floods. In front of the Al-Shabana mosque, thousands of people called for a quick investigation into the disaster and urgent reconstruction of the city, among other demands.

The city’s former mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Gaithi said Monday night that some protesters had set fire to his house. Prosecutors opened an investigation on Saturday into the collapse of the two dams, built in the 1970s, as well as the granting of maintenance funds for them. Al-Gaithi was suspended that same day while the investigation continued.

Many of the city’s residents considered politicians to be the architects of the crisis. The country has been divided between rival governments since 2014. Both are backed by different international partners and armed militias, whose influence over the country has skyrocketed since the NATO-backed Arab Spring uprising in which autocrat Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown and murdered in 2011.

Authorities from both governments have sent humanitarian teams to the city but have struggled to organize a broader response to the massive disaster. The operation to recover victims, with the help of international teams, has been poorly coordinated and residents say aid is distributed unevenly.

Different official organizations have published disparate statistics and death toll figures.

The Libyan Red Crescent has said at least 11,300 people have died and another 10,000 are missing. After initial reports with the same number of victims, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs now gives much lower numbers, of about 4,000 dead and 9,000 missing.


Associated Press writer Jack Jeffery in London contributed to this report.

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