Far from Libya's devastated Derna, one forgotten community desperately awaits aid

Assistance has been focused on city of 90,000 that took the brunt of Storm Daniel's destruction, but outlying areas need help too

A scene of destruction in Derna, Libya. But Storm Daniel's wrath was also felt elsewhere. Reuters
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Susa, Libya’s north-eastern coastal town that was once a tourist destination of scenic landscapes and Greek artefacts, is now a ghost town.

Located 75km west of flood-hit Derna, this outlying town is one of many that lies in ruins.

Many of its houses are submerged in water while its infrastructure has been washed away by Storm Daniel, which reportedly killed at least 11,000 Libyans, with thousands more missing.

With the main roads that link the town to nearby cities either completely destroyed or buried beneath flood waters and mud, Susa stands isolated. Rescue teams and aid deliveries are struggling to reach the 8,000 people stranded in the town in desperate need.

Rescue teams search for victims in flood-hit Libyan city of Derna

Rescue teams search for victims in flood-hit Libyan city of Derna

Oil-rich Libya has been mired in conflict for over a decade, leaving its infrastructure unprepared for the destructive storm which tore apart its north-eastern regions on Monday.

Dams that were in dire need of maintenance failed to withstand the flash floods, exploding from the massive pressure of water and mud.

By some estimates, the wave of water and debris was seven metres high as it crashed through the wadi, or dried river bed, before smashing into Derna and destroying about a quarter of the city of 90,000.

But while that city’s destruction has focused the world on Libya’s tragedy, many more outlying towns and villages like Susa are in distress.

According to a volunteer in the Red Crescent, who asked not to be named, there are already 17 confirmed deaths in Susa, “but this tally is far from being final. There are many more”.

The journey from Derna to Susa normally takes less than an hour. Now access is only possible through side roads that cut through winding and steep mountainous areas.

“Derna’s calamity is too grave, no one has taken note of ours,” Susa’s head of municipality Wael Ebriq told The National.

“Bodies of those who have drowned in the flash floods and been washed away are still waiting to be salvaged by rescue teams. We are in desperate need of aid.”

Three days after the storm, the area has received no aid, Mr Ebriq said. “We’ve received nothing. May Allah help us,” he added.

Even before entering the town, the destruction is palpable. Furniture, vehicles and parts of buildings are strewn everywhere. Once in Susa, stores are closed, streets deserted and there is a sense of fear and abandonment.

Fathi Omar Al Darsi paced outside his collapsed house and roamed the streets of Susa on Tuesday in search of his three daughters and son.

Crushed, hopeless and worn out, his words were few. “We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return,” he said. His tears flowed when asked about his wife, before he knelt to remove a pile of mud to clear his driveway.

Until Wednesday afternoon, ambulance services were still unable to reach the devastated town because of the blocked roads. One official said about 1,000 houses in Susa were completely submerged in water, warning of a humanitarian crisis in the flood-hit town and calling for immediate assistance.

Mohamed Mojawer of the Red Cresent told The National that the first aid deliveries finally arrived in Susa on Wednesday afternoon, giving residents their first access to drinkable water since the storm destroyed the town’s treatment station.

“The situation here is catastrophic, but we’re doing all that we can,” he said.

This story is published in collaboration with Egab

Updated: September 14, 2023, 7:00 PM