UN envoy calls for unity to rebuild Libya's flood-hit areas amid 'competing initiatives'

Abdoulaye Bathily says unified mechanism is needed to 'effectively and efficiently' start reconstruction work

A third of Derna's housing and infrastructure was wrecked in floods after Storm Daniel hit Libya last month. Ismaeel Naar / The National
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The UN’s top official in divided Libya has called for a unified mechanism to lead the reconstruction of Derna, the coastal city that was devastated by floods last month.

UN Special Envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily said on Monday that unity is needed amid what he called “unilateral and competing initiatives” by Libyan parties on the reconstruction of Derna and other flood-impacted areas.

Major rainfall and floods, triggered by Mediterranean Storm Daniel, hit parts of eastern Libya in September.

The deluge overwhelmed two dams outside Derna on September 11, causing massive flooding that washed buildings into the sea, leaving a third of Derna’s housing and infrastructure damaged, the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Government officials and aid agencies have given estimated death tolls ranging from 4,000 to more than 11,000. Bodies of many of the dead are still under the rubble or in the Mediterranean, according to search teams.

With two rival administrations claiming legitimacy in Libya, each wanting to oversee the rebuilding of Derna, Mr Bathily said a unified national mechanism was required to “effectively and efficiently” take forward reconstruction efforts in flood-affected areas.

He urged Libya's rival authorities and their international partners to allow the mechanism to be set up to ensure “transparency and accountability”.

Following the disaster, there were calls from within and outside Libya for an international investigation, reflecting the deep public mistrust in state institutions. The two dams had not being maintained for decades despite repeated warnings that they were depleted.

The oil-rich North African nation has been in chaos since 2011, when an Arab uprising, backed by Nato, ousted longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. For most of the past decade, rival administrations have claimed authority to lead Libya.

The country’s east and south have been under the control of general Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, which is allied with a parliament-confirmed government. A rival administration in the capital Tripoli is supported by most of the international community.

The head of the Tripoli-based Libyan National Unity Government, Abdulhamid Dbeibah, called for the reconstruction of Derna and the affected areas in the east of the country to be “neutral from the political conflict in the country”.

“I salute the Libyans from all regions as they continue their solidarity, as you have proven to the world that Libya is one,” he said.

“I call on all governmental institutions and political parties to be neutral on the Derna reconstruction file from the political conflict.”

Updated: October 03, 2023, 10:24 AM