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Collapse of 2 dams in Libya floods leads to probe

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Hamza Al Ahmar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(DERNA, Libya) — Libya’s chief prosecutor announced Friday he has ordered an investigation into the collapse of two overwhelmed dams during the catastrophic floods — and whether better maintenance could have avoided the disaster.

After Mediterranean storm Daniel brought heavy rains, and widespread flooding, to eastern Libya, two dams near the port city of Derna collapsed earlier this week, wiping out a quarter of the area. The city has been declared a disaster zone.

Decades-old studies showed that the two dams, built in the 1970s primarily to protect the city from floods, suffered cracks and subsidence that may lead to their collapse, according to Libya Attorney General Al-Siddiq Al-Sour.

Al-Sour said around $8 million had been allocated for maintenance that was halted months after it began when the Arab Spring uprising broke out in the country in the early 2010s. Prosecutors are investigating the spending of dam maintenance funds, he told reporters Friday. The investigation would include local authorities as well as previous governments, he said.

“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.

A team of 26 prosecutors will also head to Derna to keep a record of victims and identify causes of deaths, he said. His office did not have an accurate tally of deaths as investigations remain underway.

According to the Libyan Red Crescent, at least 11,300 people have died and another 10,100 were reported missing as of Friday in the wake of the destructive floods.

The death toll in Derna could reach upwards of 20,000 people, based on the extent of the damage, Derna Mayor Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi said Thursday.

Libya’s National Center of Meteorology reported that more than 16 inches of rain fell in the northeastern city of Bayda within a 24-hour period to Sunday, according to the flood tracking website Floodlist.

The head of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization said Thursday that most of Libya’s flooding casualties could have been avoided if the divided country had a functioning meteorological service.

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