Libya: UN agency warns two other dams could collapse

World Monday 18/September/2023 13:44 PM
By: DW
Libya: UN agency warns two other dams could collapse

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed concern regarding two more dams in east Libya which were said to be dealing with massive amounts of pressure, after the collapse of two dams in a storm last week killed thousands.

The UN agency said reports regarding the two dams' stability were "contradictory."

The Jaza Dam, which lies between the storm-hit, devastated city of Derna and nearby Benghazi, and the Qattara dam near Benghazi were both in good conditions and functioning, authorities meanwhile said.

Jaza Dam was being equipped with pumps to relieve pressure, the OCHA cited authorities as saying.

Mediterranean storm Daniel hit the country last week, destroying the two dams and causing floods which largely devastated the city of Derna, killing thousands of the city's residents and leaving more missing.

For years, experts had warned that the two-now collapsed dams were at risk due to floods, especially amid a lack of immediate maintenance. The two dams lay uphill from the coastal city of Derna and were meant to protect some 90,000 people.

"In the event of a big flood, the consequences will be disastrous for the residents of the valley and the city," Abdelwanees Ashoor, a professor of civil engineering, wrote in a study published last year in the Sabha University Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences.

Ashoor's words were echoed by many other experts in previous years.

Built in the 1970s by a Yugoslav construction company, the Abu Mansour and Derna dams were meant to protect the city from common flash floods. They suffered major damage in 1986, when a strong storm hit the region.

Late on Friday, Libya's General Prosecutor al-Sediq al-Sour said a 1990s study had revealed cracks and fissures in the dams' structure. However, experts' incessant calls for maintenance largely went unheeded and since then, for more than a decade, Libya has been divided between two rival governments.

Al-Sour pledged on Friday that prosecutors would investigate the collapse of the two dams, as well as where the funds allocated previously to maintain them had gone.

"I reassure citizens that whoever made mistakes or negligence, prosecutors will certainly take firm measures, file a criminal case against him and send him to trial," he said.

Several thousand people are reported to have died in the disaster although the exact figure remains very unclear.