By Isabel Ringrose
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Libyan horror is the result of climate change and Nato’s intervention

Experts say weather events like storm Daniel will keep happening as climate change spirals
Issue 2873
Rescue workers in red with Libyan flag symbol pushing a van out of the flood caused by Storm Daniel

Rescue services in action after devastating floods in Libya (Picture: Libyan Red Crescent via IFRC)

Up to 20,000 people may have died in Libya and tens of thousands have been driven from their homes. The terrible toll is a result of climate change—the deadliest north African flood since 1927—in a society torn apart by imperialist intervention.

Storm Daniel hit on the night of 10 September and saw devastating floods in the coastal region of north east Libya. The rising water broke apart two dams near the city of Derna.

One survivor said, “I heard a whoosh, I thought it was an ­aeroplane. The force of the water ­collapsed my neighbour’s house.”

Another survivor, Khalil Boushiha, and his mother were swept down the street until he grabbed a door and scrambled inside a house.

“Bodies were floating on the water, cars were floating by, people were screaming. It lasted an hour or an hour and a half, but it felt like more than a year,” he said.

Eastern cities of Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Tobruk, Takenis, Al-Bayada, Battah and Benghazi—150 miles west of Derna—have also been affected.

Storm Daniel formed at the ­beginning of this month causing floods in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey before moving towards Libya. It was the worst storm since records began in Greece killing 16 people, and four in Bulgaria.

The storm followed a climatic event known as an “Omega block”, which is becoming more frequent. These occur when a high ­pressure zone is sandwiched between two zones of low pressure. It is associated with heavier and more intense rainfall.

In Derna, home to 100,000 people, the collapse of the two nearby dams released 30 million cubic metres of water. One cubic metre is equivalent to 1,000 litres. Waves ripped through the city at ten metres high.

Some 25 percent of the city has gone, with most of it swept out to sea. Libya’s civil war after Nato ­bombing intervention in 2011 has left the country in chaos and unprepared for climate catastrophe (see below).

The authorities had not properly maintained the dams since 2002, and critical infrastructure, such as an efficient meteorological service, doesn’t exist.

There are no properly-equipped emergency services to rescue and help people.

“The weather conditions were not studied well, neither were the seawater levels, rainfall and the wind speeds. There was no evacuation of families that could be in the path of the storm and in ­valleys,” said Osama Aly, the head of Libya’s Emergency and Ambulance authority.

“People are being buried in three mass graves. There’s no time or space to bury them in single graves. We removed 500 bodies in a single operation.”

Authorities prevented residents from leaving their homes on 10 September and put in place a curfew.

In many areas the floods have wiped out hospitals and medical facilities, along with phone lines, electricity infrastructure and roads.

Morgues are already at capacity with bodies strewn on the streets and others yet to be recovered in the water and wreckage. Rotting corpses pose a serious risk of spreading infection.

The destruction is not over. Experts are already predicting these weather phenomena will happen more often, especially in the Mediterranean, as climate change spirals.

And what’s guaranteed is that the poorest people will suffer the most.

Western forces’ bombing cleared the way for Libya’s feuding regimes 

Nato military alliance forces pulled Libya apart in 2011 as they seized an opportunity to remove Muammar Gaddafi. In 2010 and 2011 Arab revolutions began to overthrow dictators and Western states rushed to take control.

The West had first demonised Gaddafi, then rehabilitated him as an ally during the “War on Terror”—and for his oil. Then the West helped turn the Libyan revolt into civil war, backing various militias with arms, funding and troops.

Britain and the US claimed it was their “responsibility to protect” the Libyan people. But their forces pummelled Libya with air strikes and cruise missiles, followed up by French and Canadian bombs.

These are the same type of forces we are asked to believe will bring peace and security to the people of Ukraine.

Gaddafi’s removal left a power vacuum filled by warring militias. Western states created an interim government without support from ordinary Libyans.

So in 2014 renewed fighting broke out, followed by more Western airstrikes against Isis. Libya was split between one administration in the east and one in the west in the capital Tripoli.

A new Government of National Accord (GNA) was formed at the end of 2015 in Tripoli to be the sole authority, but it was unpopular. The alternative government in the east continued to work against it. 

The United Nations, European Union (EU) and US backed the GNA. Other powers, including  France, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia backed the east’s government.

The two sides signed a ceasefire in 2020. The Government of National Unity formed in March 2021 to unify the rival governments.

But political fractures still exist. In Tripoli prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah heads Libya’s internationally‑recognised government.

In Benghazi, the rival prime minister Osama Hamad heads the eastern administration under the Government of National Stability. It’s backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya was one of the richest and most developed countries in Africa in 2010, but a third of Libya’s population now lives below the poverty line.

Nothing has been done to rebuild it by Nato or the West. The Middle East Eye website said in 2015 that Britain had spent £320 million bombing Libya, and just £15 million on humanitarian aid in the four years afterwards.

Meanwhile the Libyan coast has become the centre of a booming slavery industry. Its governments are manipulated by global powers, especially the EU.

And the EU employs Libya to keep guard of its borders. Vicious coastguards stop refugees leaving north Africa. And gangs lock up refugees, who have been pushed back by the EU, in horrific conditions.

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