As Derna reels, other flood-hit Libyan cities struggle to recover

More than 10 days after the deadly storms lashed the country, cities including Susa, Al Bayda and Cyrene are mired in the resulting damage


  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Water flows through the ruins at the site of the ancient Greco-Roman city of Cyrene (Shahhat) in eastern Libya. — AFP
Water flows through the ruins at the site of the ancient Greco-Roman city of Cyrene (Shahhat) in eastern Libya. — AFP

Published: Fri 22 Sep 2023, 10:03 PM

As much of the world's attention has been focused on the port city of Derna since last week's flooding in eastern Libya, other cities are mired in the resulting damage.

Ahmed Saleh, a 34-year-old civil engineer clad in a traditional white jalabiya, is still in shock at the scale of the destruction in his home city, Susa.

More than 10 days after the deadly storms lashed eastern Libya, he says they still have great difficulty accessing drinking water after a desalination plant was badly damaged.

Volunteers "bring water from nearby cities in big trucks. That's a big problem for us".

Though the casualties in Susa were not as high as those in Derna, the tsunami-size September 10 storm razed the city's summerhouses, or "chalets" as they are known there, and left electric grids and roads in disrepair.

Local officials say the floods killed 19 people in Susa.

Abdelhakim Bachir, the head of the mayor's office in Susa, said reconstruction was the absolute priority.

"We need to restore all the infrastructure. We didn't have electricity for three days and now we still don't have water," he told AFP.

Before the flood, the desalination plant by the coast provided water to 320,000 people in Susa and the nearby cities of Al Bayda and Cyrene.

Milad Saleh, a worker at the plant, said that when the disaster hit, there was complete chaos.

"On the first night there was a blackout, we couldn't see anything. Pipes were blocked by wood, rocks and mud," the 63-year-old said.

"At the moment we're working as hard as we can to clean the water plant," he added.

The plant's director, Ezz El Gedri, said it would take at least a week to be able to restart the machines.

"For now, we are checking each piece of equipment to see what works or what needs to be repaired or replaced."

Susa, about 60 kilometres west of Derna, is a local tourism spot on the Mediterranean coast famed for its beachfront chalets and sea rock formations.

"Between 20 and 25 chalets were entirely or partially destroyed in the touristic quarter," Bachir said.

In the nearby city of Cyrene, home to the ancient UNESCO-listed ruins of the same name, the rain sent boulders tumbling down the nearby Jabal Al Akhdar mountain range.

Water from the sewage system now circulates around the ruins, threatening their foundations.

An AFP team saw bubbling water pooling around the ancient site, releasing a foul odour into the air.

Officials fear that the wastewater could damage the columns of the monuments, which include the second century AD Temple of Zeus, bigger than the Parthenon in Athens.

The floods also severely damaged the farms in eastern Libya, where the only arable land is located along the Mediterranean coast.

In Marawa, about 65 kilometres south of Al Bayda, 29-year-old Salem Fadhel laments the loss of his annual harvest.

"It is a complete catastrophe... we were about to sell our products," he said.

"It is all lost now," he continued, pointing to a plot of lettuce now mired in muddy soil.

"The floods covered all the lettuce plants. Around 60 farms were completely lost," he said.

Efforts to rebuild have been severely complicated by the collapse of the roads leading into the town, which has obstructed rescue teams and ambulances trying to arrive.

"We have electricity but our roads are not usable anymore," Fawzi Al Barassi, 27, said.

Rujab Abdelmollah Al Barassi said the town was in need of a hospital.

"We need to renovate the hospital, we need better medical infrastructure," he said.

"There were a lot of promises by the authorities even before the catastrophe, but nothing never changed in Marawa."


The North African nation has been in turmoil for more than a decade since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising led to the overthrow and killing of veteran dictator Moammer Gadhafi.

The country's flood-hit east is ruled by an administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The floods killed over 3,000 in Derna, according to the eastern administration, but international groups fear the eventual count will be far higher.

"The crisis is huge. It's beyond description," Faraj El Hassi, the head of the health programme at the Libyan Red Crescent, told AFP in Benghazi.

He said 17 cities or towns were damaged by the floods.

"We had huge experience... when it comes to handling armed conflict or other crises over the past 10 years," he said.

But he confessed that the aid organisation was now "over capacity" given the numbers of casualties, despite his team working around the clock to offer care.

"We don't have the rescue equipment, we don't have the vehicles to move," he said, appealing for "efforts and support from all over the world".

"It is not a crisis that we can manage alone."

More news from World