Angry Libyans protest against authorities in flood-hit Derna

Protest took aim at government officials who 'have failed to manage the crisis'

Libyan protesters outside the Sahaba Mosque in Derna on September 18. EPA
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Hundreds of people gathered in protest in the Libyan city of Derna on Wednesday, to vent anger at authorities and demand accountability, a week after a flood killed thousands of residents and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

During the demonstration outside the Sahaba Mosque, protesters took aim at officials, including the Speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh.

Some sat on the roof in front of the mosque's golden dome, a Derna landmark.

Protesters also set fire to the house of the man who was Derna mayor at the time of the flood, Abdulmenam Al Ghaithi, his office manager told Reuters.

Hichem Abu Chkiouat, a minister in the eastern Libyan government, said Mr Ghaithi has been suspended from his post. Reuters could not immediately reach Mr Ghaithi for comment.

The government in eastern Libya said the prime minister Osama Hamad dismissed all the members of Derna's municipal council and referred them to investigation.

Monday's protest marks the first large demonstration since the flood, which swept through Derna when two dams in the hills outside the city failed during a powerful storm, unleashing a devastating torrent.

"Aguila we don't want you. All Libyans are brothers," protesters chanted, calling for national unity in a country left politically fractured by more than a decade of conflict and chaos.

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Mansour, a student taking part in the protest, said he wanted an urgent investigation into the collapse of the dams, which "made us lose thousands of our beloved people".

Taha Miftah, 39, said the protest was a message that "the governments have failed to manage the crisis", and that the parliament was especially to blame.

Mr Miftah called for an international inquiry into the disaster and "for reconstruction under international supervision".

The full scale of the death toll has yet to emerge, with thousands of people still missing and officials providing varying statistics.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed 3,922 deaths.

Mr Saleh last week sought to deflect blame from authorities, describing the flood as an "unprecedented natural disaster" and saying people should not focus on what could or should have been done.

But commentators have drawn attention to warnings given in advance, including an academic paper published last year by a hydrologist outlining the city's vulnerability to floods and the urgent need to maintain the dams that protected it.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 4:52 AM