The United Nations (UN) has expressed grave concern over the recent catastrophic flash floods that struck eastern Libya, leading to the loss of thousands of lives. According to UN officials, the majority of these casualties could have been averted if early warning and emergency management systems had been functioning effectively.
Libya’s National Meteorological Centre (NMC) did issue early warnings for the extreme weather event a substantial 72 hours in advance. They also proactively notified governmental authorities via email, urging them to take preventative measures. However, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that it remains uncertain whether these warnings were effectively disseminated.
Petteri Taalas, the head of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, emphasized the critical role that coordination and effective crisis management play in preventing such disasters. He stated, “With better functioning coordination in the crisis-wracked country, they could have issued the warnings, and the emergency management forces would have been able to carry out the evacuation of the people, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties.”
The flash floods in eastern Libya occurred after two upstream river dams burst, unleashing an enormous surge of water that devastated the city of Derna. The scale of destruction left entire city blocks in ruins and resulted in an untold number of people being swept into the Mediterranean Sea. The absence of proper early warning systems and the inability to execute timely evacuations exacerbated the tragedy.
One major factor contributing to the disaster was the long-standing internal conflict within Libya. This conflict severely damaged the country’s meteorological infrastructure, including its observing network and IT systems. As Taalas pointed out, “The flooding events came, and there was no evacuation taking place because there was not the proper early warning systems in place.”
Taalas stressed that if evacuations had been carried out in response to early warnings, the human toll would have been significantly lower. While complete avoidance of economic losses may not have been possible, he noted that “we could have also minimized those losses by having proper services in place.”
The WMO highlighted that once there had been close cooperation between meteorological services and disaster management throughout Libya. However, the ongoing conflict had disrupted this collaboration, leading to a breakdown in communication and coordination.
The tragic events in Libya serve as a stark reminder of the importance of robust early warning systems and effective disaster management in regions prone to natural disasters. The UN is urging the international community to support efforts to rebuild Libya’s meteorological infrastructure and enhance coordination between meteorological services and disaster management agencies to prevent such catastrophic events in the future.
Sources By Agencies