US delivers first round of aid to Libya more than a week after deadly floods

US partners have been on the ground since 'immediate aftermath' of floods, official tells The National

People look for survivors after flooding in Derna, Libya. AP
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The US on Wednesday sent its first shipment of humanitarian assistance into Libya, more than a week after devastating floods in the port city Derna killed about 4,000 people.

The “13 metric tonnes of humanitarian relief items” included “heavy-duty and durable plastic sheeting for shelter, shelter repair kits, hygiene supplies, blankets and water containers from USAID’s warehouse in Dubai”, the US Agency for International Development said in a statement.

Despite a week-long wait for the delivery, “US partners have been working on the ground since the immediate aftermath of the floods”, a USAID official told The National.

The aid delivery announcement came a day after a representative for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs told The Washington Post that one of their teams had been blocked from travelling from Benghazi to flood-hit Derna by Libyan authorities.

Eastern Libyan authorities also asked journalists to leave Derna this week, claiming the volume of reporters is hampering rescue teams' work.

“It is an attempt to create better conditions for the rescue teams to carry out the work more smoothly and effectively,” Hichem Abu Chkiouat, Minister of Civil Aviation in the eastern Libyan administration, told Reuters.

Hundreds of protesters have rallied in Derna this week, voicing anger at authorities and demanding accountability for the response to the floods that wiped out entire neighbourhoods.

Last week's Storm Daniel caused two dams inland from Derna to collapse, unleashing deadly flash floods that destroyed as much as a quarter of the city. More than 10,000 people are still missing.

Libya's Attorney General Al Siddiq Al Sour told national outlet Al Ahrar on Wednesday that the people responsible for the dams' collapse “have been identified” and promised the results of an ongoing investigation would be revealed soon.

The US aid delivery follows President Joe Biden's brief statement in response to the floods, in which he announced Washington would increase its aid to Tripoli.

“We join the Libyan people in grieving the loss of too many lives cut short, and send our hope to all those missing loved ones,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

Washington has so far provided $12 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the floods, USAID said.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 3:31 PM