Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

The mayor’s home in the Libyan city of Derna has been burnt to the ground, as hundreds of protesters demanded answers for last week’s catastrophic flood.

They gathered on Monday night at the city’s landmark Sahaba Mosque, many chanting for top officials in Libya’s eastern government to be sacked.

Derna’s whole city council has now been dismissed.

More than 10,000 people are officially missing after two old and dilapidated dams burst, flooding the city.

Close to 4,000 people are known to have died, according to the UN.

The home of Derna’s mayor, Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi, has become a focal point for people’s anger.

Residents say they were not sufficiently warned by officials, who they believe must have known a huge amount of rainfall was coming.

They say they were also given a stay-at-home warning rather than told to evacuate, although officials deny this.

Since the ousting of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been riven by power struggles and currently has two governments – a UN-recognised one based in Tripoli, and another in the country’s east backed by warlord Gen Khalifa Haftar.

He has been calling the flooding a natural disaster but many analysts disagree, saying the eastern government failed to maintain the dams despite prior warnings about their fragile condition.

On Tuesday, the day after the protests, a minister in eastern Libya’s government announced that all journalists had been asked to leave Derna, and accused them of hampering the work of rescue teams.

In addition to a large international aid effort, parts of Libya where, until recently, militias had been fighting each other are now sending volunteers and their own private vehicles with food, water, medicine and bedding.

But demonstrators say they need more aid.

And with their most vital possessions washed away by the water, they also want processing facilities set up to replace lost passports and identity documents.

Monday’s rally was the biggest seen since the floods hit, and there are suggestions it has some institutional backing.

“The location of the protest, the Sahaba Mosque, is normally cordoned off as part of the rescue area – so how come all of a sudden all the public was allowed to go [there]?” Claudia Gazzini of International Crisis Group in Libya told BBC Newsday.

“It makes me think that it wasn’t necessarily just a spontaneous outburst of anger.”

By Joy

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