Humanitarians delivering aid in the wake of Libya’s “unprecedented” flood disaster centred on the coastal city of Derna, have reached more than 146,000 in need, said the head of the UN support mission there (UNSMIL) on Monday.
Briefing the Security Council, Abdoulaye Bathily noted the thousands of lives lost by the dam bursts which destroyed whole neighbourhoods after Storm Daniel slammed the region on 10 September.
The Special Representative told ambassadors that despite the sense of national unity and compassion shown by ordinary Libyans, the disaster had revealed “severe governance deficits” across the divided nation, with its two rival administrations: the internationally recognized Government in Tripoli and the Benghazi-based parliament in the east.
Eyewitness to ‘apocalyptic scene’
“I saw first-hand the magnitude of the disaster and heard from families about their losses, including individuals who lost all their loved ones”, said Mr. Bathily. “I saw an apocalyptic scene where large portions of the city were literally swallowed up by the water,” he shared with the Council.
The UN, along with local and international partners, swiftly responded to the crisis, providing life-saving aid and leading search and rescue operations. The focus now is on early recovery and reconstruction.
End divisions over rebuilding
Mr. Bathily said the divided leaderships had supported rescue efforts well overall with the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) establishing an operations room to support rescue teams. Armed groups from both east and west “demonstrated remarkable solidarity”, he added.
However, he expressed concern over the clear divisions among Libya’s leaders regarding the reconstruction of Derna and the affected areas.
“Uncoordinated initiatives could lead to further disappointment for the citizens of Derna and all of Libya, who are hoping for a speedy recovery and efficient reconstruction of the affected areas,” cautioned Mr. Bathily.
In the bid to finally hold national elections towards a new unity government the UNSMIL chief noted some progress.
Earlier this month, a committee of representatives from rival administrations tasked to produce laws for the upcoming elections, completed its work. With certain reservations, they have published revised electoral laws acceptable to all sides.
Mr. Bathily warned that remaining disagreements over electoral laws may jeopardise the hard-won gains by the rival chambers and the compromise they have achieved so far.
He said a wider base of support was needed to safeguard progress towards the ballot box, calling on all parties involved to meet and agree on a binding political settlement.
The “backbone of that will be a unified government to lead Libya to elections” he said, assuring of UNSMIL’s readiness to help.